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Rubicon - quality for 20 years (c)Meerlust

Looking back on 20 years of Rubicon is not possible every day, which is why I was particularly pleased to be able to take part in the tasting. There was also a question to be answered: Is a South African wine and the Rubicon in particular really worth waiting 10 years in the cellar to be enjoyed? The vintages 1980, 1984, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1998 were tasted, as well as samples of the vintages 2000 and 2001, which are not yet ready for sale. The tasting was led by Meerlust winemaker Chris Williams. Giorgio dalla Cia unfortunately had to cancel as his farewell dinner at Meerlust was given at short notice that evening.

The Meerlust Rubicon is one of the first South African Bordeaux-style cuvées, which has been considered a classic in the Cape since the maiden vintage in 1980. The Rubicon is one of the few wines that has been able to maintain a consistently high quality in the meanwhile more than 20 years, which is not least due to the winemaking skills of the only Italian cellar master at the Cape, Giorgio dalla Cia, who has been responsible for the Meerlust wines since 1978. At the end of 2003, dalla Cia left the winery and handed over responsibility to the young and very talented winemaker Chris Williams, who had already worked for Meerlust in the past. The Rubicon consists mostly of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged between 18 and 20 months in 80% new never-barriques from France and matures for a few more months in the bottle before it goes on sale.

The vines from which the Rubicon is made are planted on gravel and clay soils only 5 km from False Bay as the crow flies. The vineyards are only irrigated when necessary and a maximum of twice a year. If the quality of individual sites is not good enough, the grapes or the base wine are sold to other producers. There should not and will not be a second wine at Meerlust.

Winemaker Chris Williams (c)Meerlust

It can be said in advance that all vintages were in very good shape and were consistently lively - even the maiden vintage of 1980. Even from the 1991 vintage onwards, the wines could do with a little more maturing time in the bottle. Even a somewhat weaker year like 1984 produced a wine at Meerlust that is only now at its peak. However, the younger vintages also showed that a Rubicon can also be enjoyed young, as it is always accessible in its youth. However, those who prefer more mature wines should wait at least 10 years before opening a bottle. Unfortunately, most wine drinkers have no patience for this, especially with South African wines, which have had difficulty proving how storable they are. All the wines tasted came directly from the winery and have not left it since bottling, which is why the examples tasted here represent the ideal of how the Rubicon can mature during this time. Besides the high consistency of the Rubicon, the wines mostly showed a lot of elegance with fine, black berry fruits and moderate tannins.

Superior harvest at Meerlust results in a wine with only 11.5 vol% alcohol. Matured in 5000l wooden barrels; no barriques. Pale garnet red with ruby centre. Beautiful cassis nose with leather, earth and herbs. Tyre notes present on the nose and palate. On the palate with full, biting fruit and light, medicinal spiciness. Silky and still lively. The finish is warm but quite short. The wine evaporates quite quickly in the glass and should be drunk now at the latest. 85 points / 4*


Owner Hannes Myburgh (c)Meerlust

A too cool winter did not bring a great harvest in South Africa, but at Meerlust surprisingly good results. 12,5 Vol%. Barriques were used for ageing from 1984, so this wine was aged in 100% new barriques. Quite pale garnet red. Bouquet with lots of dark fruit and leather, plus some herbs and a slight alcoholic spiciness. On the palate with discreet acidity and fine notes of maturity. Short finish. The 1984 shows a little more liveliness than the 1980, but should still be drunk now. 87 points / 4*

Great red wine year in South Africa. Medium, shiny ruby red with garnet rim. Bouquet with clearly more ripe fruit: black berries with slight spice. On the palate with fresh attack, acidity and some ripeness. Despite the good presence and the medium length, the wine is not really convincing at the moment and should be stored for a few more years. With more enjoyment in two to three years. 84 points / 3.5*

Cool summer and the weakest harvest of the evening brings a wine with only 12 Vol%. Medium, shiny and not very dense garnet with ruby centre. Slightly musty bouquet with dark berries and forest floor. Behind, a fresh focus with red fruits and medicinal tones. On the palate, earthy again with slight acidity and noticeable ripeness. Weaker in the mid palate with light green tannins. Drink now. Score: 80 points / 3.5*.

The first harvest that new Meerlust winemaker Chris Williams helped Giorgio dalla Cia with. Great red wine year in South Africa. This year's Rubicon has a greater proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon (about 75%) and was aged in 80% new wood. Deep, shiny black ruby. Beautiful bouquet of cigar box and sweet red and black fruits. On the palate elegant expression and good density. The tannins are very fine but still present and keep the wine still somewhat closed. The 1995 will probably have its peak around 2010. Rated 90 points by Wine Spectator. 88 points / 4*



First vintage to come from 100% virus-free vines. A very hot summer in South Africa produced perhaps the most complex Rubicon to date. Brilliant black cherry red. Deep and ripe nose with cassis, wild berries, forest floor, coffee and some spice. Opulent and deep on the palate with light acidity. The tannins are noticeably present but still soft. This wine should still be able to age without problems and survive the next 10 years. Stylish finish. The best wine of the evening. 90 points / 4.5*.

Very hot year in South Africa, producing results similar to 1998. This vintage is not yet on the market. Brilliant, almost opaque black ruby. Seductive, dark bouquet of tobacco, wood, leather, coffee and berry fruit. On the palate again with perfumed fruit, good grip and excellent presence. The wine is still very young, but with elegant and deep tannins that suggest a long ageing potential. To be drunk between 2010 and 2020. Very fine finish. 89 points / 4,5*

Also a very hot harvest, but different from the 2000 harvest, the 2001 vintage is similar to the 1995 and shows itself rather packed and dense. Aged to 80% in new French wood. Dense black-violet without rim. Closed and firm bouquet of forest floor, mocha, caramel, vanilla and rich dark berries. Still woody and tannic on the palate, but with good potential. The abundant tannins are excellent and very fine and should ensure a shelf life of at least 15 years. 87 points / 3.5*

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