A visit to Plaisir de Merle at the foothills of the majestic Simonsberg between Paarl and Franschhoek is always a nostalgic affair. I well remember the grand opening of the new cellar in 1993 with Niel Bester at the helm. Niel’s philosophy of minimal human intervention hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years, as he continues to harvest quality fruit from a diversity of soils, slopes and elevations resulting in the award-winning wines from this cellar.
The recent celebration was the launch of the limited edition 2013 Charles Marais, an exquisite blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Niel considers this the pinnacle of blends produced in his 25 years as Cellar Master. The wine is named after the founder of Plaisir de Merle, Charles Marais, who fled religious persecution in France and sailed to the Cape in 1687. He was granted land by Governor Simon van der Stel in 1693 and named the farm after his home town Le Plessis Marly. Says Niel: “It would have been a fine moment for me to share a glass of this wine with the man who had the vision to set in place vineyards that to this day has a profound impact on how we make our wine.”
Niel explains that the grapes were hand-harvested in the early morning when the fruit was at its most flavourful. After hand-sorting, the grapes were de-stalked and crushed separately. Each variety was fermented separately in 5000litre stainless steel tanks. After alcoholic fermentation, a period of maceration followed when the skins remained in contact with the wine for two weeks. Following 16 months in new French 300litre barrels, the finest barrels showing the purest varietal character were selected for the final blend. A further six months in 3rd fill French oak followed before the wine was bottled without prior filtration. Two years in bottle further develops complexity and structure says Niel.
THE TASTING EXPERIENCE: