Rustenberg Wines
A vertical tasting of John X Merriman presented by Adi Badenhorst, winemaker
23rd May 2007

Adi Badenhorst, a former parrot farmer, explained that the Rustenberg estate originated in the late 1600s and started bottling on the estate in 1892.  From the 1950s onwards, the wines are still drinking well: they have some stocks back to the 1930s, but some of those are, in Adi’s words, “a bit dodgy” now.

As regards present day practice, Adi explained that there are two or three pickings from each vineyard and that after crushing and destemming, the fermenting wine is pumped over once or twice a day, but otherwise it left alone.  They blend quite soon after malolactic fermentation has taken place.  The resulting wines are racked every 3-4 months for a period of 18-20 months, before bottling unfiltered.

A propos of not much at all, Adi commented that “we consistently make some of the worst mourvèdre in the southern hemisphere.”

1999 John X Merriman, Rustenberg Wines
This, like the 2000 and 2001 are merlot dominated blends.  2000 was a warm vintage.  This has black plums and raspberries on the nose, with some floral notes.  The palate is rich and velvety with good fruit character.  It has nice depth and feels very integrated.  There is some bitterness on the finish with firm tannins after.

2000 John X Merriman, Rustenberg Wines
2000 was apparently a difficult vintage.  There is meaty black fruit on the nose, together with some cheesiness.  It has fresher, more distinct fruit flavours than the 1999.  All in all, it feels very young still and needs time to integrate more.

2001 John X Merriman, Rustenberg Wines
A very deep, concentrated nose with violet plums.  Attractive attack.  Rather hot on the palate with some wide grained fat tannins.  There’s a curious mix of feeling a bit evolved and needing more time to integrate.

2002 John X Merriman, Rustenberg Wines
The 2002 and 2003 are both cabernet dominated blends.  The 2002 has a closed, somewhat murky nose, showing more minerality than fruit at the moment.  On the palate, it’s attractive and open initially, and while it feels a bit hot, it’s nowhere near as hot as the 2001.  This feels reasonably together, and there’s some nice cherry fruit flavours on the finish.

2003 John X Merriman, Rustenberg Wines
A ripe, full, open nose with some mushrooms and some reticent blackcurrant fruit.  It has a nice round openness on the palate.  Very young, but it’s already showing some integration.

2004 John X Merriman, Rustenberg Wines
With the 2004 and 2005, we return to a merlot-dominated blend.  This has an open, ripe, simple plummy nose.  There is ripe, sweet black and red fruit on the plate with some greenness after a moment or two.  Good finish, with hot, spicy oak on the finish and after.

2005 John X Merriman, Rustenberg Wines
This has a very closed nose, giving little away.  Very young on the palate, with quite separate layers to it.  I’m not entirely sure what to make of this.

Blind wine (actually 2004 Cote Rotie Saint-Cosme)
A curious nose – meaty, salamis with some cherries, blackcurrants and blackberries.  Light palate with soft cherry fruit.  Big chewy tannins dominate the finish.  This isn’t entirely dissimilar to some Californian pinot noirs, but it’s more likely to be an old world Syrah.

Blind wine (actually 2003 Cote Rotie, Delas Frères)
This has a very slight nose, with some gently perfumed hedgerows.  Open and ripe on the palate, but a bit thin and silky.  A bit tannic on the finish.  It just feels a bit of a non-entity.

Blind wine (actually 2004 Syrah, Rustenberg Wines)
4,000 litres, or 6,000 bottles were produced of this, the first vintage of Rustenberg’s syrah.  It has a meaty, sweaty, cheesy nose, that instantly makes me think of syrah.  A very attractive palate with finely structured black fruit and some raspberry fragrance.  Very clean and well made.  This is very interesting stuff.

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Last updated: 10 July 2007