The 2012 John X Merriman is a blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Merlot with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec filling in the gaps. Spending 20 months in oak, 35% new, it has a dark plum and blackcurrant-scented bouquet that is more primal than other vintages I have encountered at this stage. The palate is medium-bodied with tobacco-tinged black fruit. This is supple, almost soft in the mouth that lends an easy drinking texture, but it clearly deserves a couple more years in bottle for those tannins on the finish to melt. One of South Africa's most consistent brands and still great value.
|Rustenberg has a wine-growing history dating back to 1682, when Roelof Pasman from Meurs, near the Rhine, recognised its wine-growing potential. By 1781 some 3000 cases of wine were produced on the farm. Production doubled by the end of the century and a new cellar was built. Wine has been bottled at this cellar for an unbroken period since 1892.
In the early 1800s Rustenberg was divided by owner Jacob Eksteen and a section was given to his son-in-law, who named it Schoongezicht and sold it soon after. Rustenberg and Schoongezicht were at their peak around 1812, with beautiful homesteads and flourishing vineyards. But by mid-century, recession coupled with disease in the vines, brought bankruptcy and dispossession.
Schoongezicht was rescued in 1892 by John X Merriman (who was to become Prime Minister of the Cape), and Rustenberg by his brother-in-law Sir Jacob Barry. Together they revitalised the farms. Fruit was sent to Covent Garden; new vines were grafted onto disease-resistant American rootstock; wines were exported to England and the Continent – and even found in Siberia.
In 1941 Peter and Pamela Barlow bought Rustenberg, later acquiring Schoongezicht and reuniting the properties. Their son Simon took over the running of the farm in 1987. The Barlows have been at Rustenberg for over 60 years: the longest period any one family has owned the farm.