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16 of Our Favourite Merlot Wines to Keep you Company this Winter

16 of Our Favourite Merlot Wines to Keep you Company this Winter
It’s red wine season and wine writer Greg Landman has selected some of his favourite locally-produced Merlots.

Merlot is the most planted of all grapes in France, from where all things vinous emanate. Some believe that the grape got its name from merle, the Old French word for the blackbird that had a fondness for the fruit. Others believe that the name refers to the dark, almost black, colour of the grape on the vine. Nevertheless, it plays a prominent role in Bordeaux style blends all over the world, while also being delicious as a single varietal.

Locally it is the fourth most planted grape after Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, and Shiraz. It usually has a softer, more seductive flavour than Cabernet and some might describe as somewhat feminine. It has an increasing band of New World devotees, drawn to its plummy, cassis-like flavours and much talked about health benefits. While grown all over our country, some areas are better placed to produce Merlot which does not like scorching hot, dry weather.

via GIPHY

To reveal its best characteristics, as is the case with all red wines, it should be served at the desired European room temperature of 16℃.

If you missed Greg’s list of Pinot Noirs for this season, you can find them over here.

16 of the best Merlot

Vondeling Petit Rouge 2017

If a wine could be called “perky’ this is it. Winemaker Matthew Copeland has produced a juicy bottle that’s full of flavour with that much vied for garnet colour. Some wood supports the fruit perfectly and there’s an intriguing hint of black pepper. It’s youthful and fun, and is just the perfect company at a braai. For R65 a bottle from Cybercellar, you simply can’t go wrong.

Protea Merlot 2018

It’s unusual to find a wine at this price point (R66 a bottle) with a wood component but there you have it. From those clever people at Anthonij Rupert in Franschhoek, this Merlot has lots of red fruit from the Darling area making it juicy and extremely drinkable. The eight months spent in oak is just enough time to support things. And the twist off cork is really convenient when you are in a hurry to get your hands on the darn wine.

Robertson Merlot 2018

From grapes planted in the cooler areas of Robertson – where it can get hot as hell – and then fermented in stainless steel tanks and matured in French oak barrels for four months, this is an example of careful winemaking which pays off beautifully. Both smooth and appealing without getting precious, this wine goes down a treat. You’ll find it at Makro for R69 a bottle.

Vondeling Petit Rouge 2017 is a perky addition to our best Merlot in South Africa list
Vondeling Petit Rouge 2017
Protea Merlot 2018 comes from the Anthonij Rupert Estate in Franschhoek and features on our list of the best Merlot in South Africa
Protea Merlot 2018
Robertson Merlot 2018 is a great budget buy and is on our list of the best Merlot in South Africa
Robertson Merlot 2018

You also might like: Jacques Roux of Robertson Winery

Van Loveren Merlot

What is always fascinating about the famous Four Cousins of Robertson is how, with a huge operation like theirs, they manage to make such good wines. Well this is definitely one of them. Matured on oak staves to give it that bit of wood push, this Merlot has delicious fruit that is dark, deep and interesting. It’s medium bodied, easy drinking and totally unintimidating, like an old friend. Enjoy for R70 a bottle.

Porcupine Ridge Merlot 2018

This is a fabulously super quaffer for budget conscious drinkers from the classic Franschhoek estate Boekenhoutskloof –count me in. This charmer is full of fruitcake pleasantness without being “jammy” in any way. It’s balanced, medium bodied and smooth as a baby’s bottom. In my humble opinion Porcupine Ridge have created a guilt-free pleasure to take one far from the angst of the day-to-day grind. Pick up a bottle for R75 from Cybercellar.

Balance Winemaker’s Selection Merlot

This is a deliciously aromatic Merlot with subtle black cherry flavours. It’s been aged on French oak staves adding another dimension to the fruit. Find it for R75 a bottle.

Van Loveren Merlot is a good buy at R70 a bottle and features on our best Merlot in South Africa list
Van Loveren Merlot
Porcupine Ridge Merlot is a great budget conscious buy which is why it is on our list of the best Merlot in South Africa
Porcupine Ridge Merlot
Balance Winemakers Selection Merlot is a delicious Merlot that features on our list of the best South African Merlot
Balance Winemakers Selection Merlot

You also might like: Moderate Boozing Boosts Brain Function

Blue Owl Merlot 2017

From winemaker Van Zyl du Toit of Allée Bleueu who knows a thing or two about Merlot, Blue Owl is packed with plenty of dark red fruit that have a definite cassis nuances and some spice to lift it all. While being delicious on its own, this Merlot will benefit from being cooled for 20 minutes in the fridge. Pick up a bottle for R76 from wine.co.za.

Middelvlei Rooster Merlot 2018

This charmer can easily result in two bottles disappearing very quickly. There are silky, soft tannins with hints of chocolate but not enough to put you off and there’s some wood supporting all that fruit. It’ll be heaven at your next gathering around a braai and at R80 a bottle it won’t break the bank either.

Blue Owl Merlot 2017 comes from Allée Bleue and features on our best Merlot in South Africa list
Blue Owl Merlot 2017
Middelvlei Rooster Merlot is a great budget buy and features on our list of the best Merlot in South Africa
Middelvlei Rooster Merlot

You also might like: Slow-Roasted Lamb Neck

Neethlingshof Estate Merlot

The team at this iconic Stellenbosch estate under the guidance of cellar master De Wet Viljoen continue to show why they hold their place in the hierarchy so well. The estate’s Merlot is velvety smooth with some strawberries and vanilla on the nose – gorgeous. If you are thinking of keeping it– and I cannot imagine why – five years will be the outside limit. Pour yourself a glass for R105 a bottle.

Glenelly Glass Collection Merlot

Named after the magnificent glass collection at this beautiful Stellenbosch Estate, master winemaker Luke O’ Cuinneagain has created a bottle that has fabulous floral nuances on the nose with plenty of deep red fruit. The three weeks skin contact adds great colour to the wine, while the 12 months oak maturation gives plenty of gravitas. It’s an easy drinking, classic Merlot for R115 a bottle.

Diemersdal Merlot 2018

Diemersdal’s two-week post-fermentation maturation results in this most appealing deep, dark colour. It’s got a fragrant nose from 12 months in 225ℓ French oak barrels and there’s plenty of dried fruit tang. This rich and intense flavour cries out for roast venison. Enjoy a glass for R125 a bottle from Cybercellar.

Neethlingshof Estate Merlot is a fantastic buy from a strong team at this Stellenbosch Estate which is why we have featured it on our list of the best Merlot in South Africa
Neethlingshof Estate Merlot
Glenelly Glass Collection Merlot has been named after the amazing glass collection at the estate and features on our best of South African Merlot list
Glenelly Glass Collection Merlot
Diemersdal Merlot 2018 is a great find for our best of South African Merlot
Diemersdal Merlot 2018

You also might like: Celebrity Chef’s Grilled Venison Loin Recipe

Glen Carlou Merlot 2018

With magnificent fruit from five different vineyards in the Simonsberg and Paarl regions, this Merlot’s free run juice matured for 12 months in French oak barrels making it an absolute knockout. You can find it for R129 a bottle from Cybercellar.

De Grendel Merlot 2017

Sporting a spectacular ruby colour with garnet edge, this bottle from De Grendel is a pleasure for the eye. It’s got a full aromatic nose with hints of plums and currants with plenty of grapes on the palate. Pop open a bottle for R150.

Groote Post Merlot 2016

This cracker from Lukas Wentzel proves that while they are no doubt different, Merlot wines can be successfully made all over – as long as you know what you are doing. It’s been aged in French oak barrels and its soft silky tannins support luscious dark fruit while the lively acidity keeps it very interesting. Find it for R150 a bottle.

Glen Carlou Merlot 2018 comes from vineyards in Simonsberg and Paarl and makes for a great addition to our best South African Merlot list
Glen Carlou Merlot 2018
De Grendel Merlot has got a great ruby colour which is why it features on our best of South African Merlot list
De Grendel Merlot
Groote Post Merlot 2016 is a stunner from winemaker Lkas Wentzel and features on our list of the best South African Merlot
Groote Post Merlot 2016

You also might like: Here’s Where to Go Wine Tasting in Paarl

Steenberg Merlot 2016

Aged in multifill French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation for 15 months, this particular Merlot comes at a hefty price as a result (R185 a bottle). However, it’s all worth it to create a deliciously intense flavour that’s full bodied with a velvety texture. It’s a master of its own fate that should be consumed at leisure.

Oldenburg Vineyards Merlot 2015

From this beautifully situated estate in the Banghoek Valley comes one of the pricier Merlots I have added to this list. It’s got a deep, rich colour which promises intense dark fruit on the nose and it delivers in spades. WHile being round and fleshy in the mouth, it’s got a smooth long finish. A delicious treat at R195 a bottle.

Steenberg Merlot 2015 is one of the priciest Merlot we have on our best Merlot in South Africa list and it is worth every penny
Steenberg Merlot 2015
Oldenburg Vineyards Merlot 2015 comes from the Banghoek Valley and features on our list of the best Merlot in South Africa
Oldenburg Vineyards Merlot 2015

Not a fan of red wine? Then how about a Chardonnay?

Disclaimer: Prices correct at the time of publishing. Some prices are per bottle price based on the purchase of six bottles.

Words Greg Landman

Photography Timur Saglambilek; Supplied

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