Plaisir de Merle Shiraz is made at owner Distell’s showpiece estate. It is 100% Merlot sourced frmo vineyards in the Paarl wine growing appellation. It is part of their limited release range of wines, which also include the Grand Plaisir, Malbec and Petit Verdot amongst others.
The Plaisir de Merle Estate covers some 1000 hectares and is located in Simondium, Paarl at the foot of Simonsberg Mountain. The estate was founded by Charles Marais who, as a Huguenot, had fled religious persecution in France. In 1963 Cape Governor Simon van der Stel granted land to the Marais family which they named after their home town, Le Plessis Marly. The estate prospered under Charles’ grandson, Jacob Marais, and it was he that built the famous Manor House in 1794, one of the inest examples of Cape Dutch architecture. The estate remained, more or less, in the family until it was bought by the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (now Distell) in 1964.
Today there are about 400 hectares of vineyard under vine planted with mainly international grape varieties including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Malbec. The soils are primarily composed of well-drained, weathered granite and the vineyards are located between 180 and 500m above sea level. The vineyards are sheltered from the hot, afternoon sun by the nearby mountain peaks – This slows down ripening, resulting in wines with a very typically rich fruit complexity and well-ripened tannins. Winemaker Niel Bester attributes the benefits of not only working with great fruit coming from a very unique terrain, but also getting the valuable input from Dr Paul Pontallier, MD at Chateau Margaux, with whom he studied.
Plaisir de Merle Shiraz is 100% Shiraz. The fruit is sourced from two different vineyards one planted at 250 to 300m in 1993 and one planted in 1998 at about 150m. The younger vineyard contributes berry fruit and plum flavours whilst the older vineyard contributes spicy, peppery character. The grapes are hand harvested. After destemming and crushing, it was fermented on the skins for 8 and 9 days respectively. Juice was pumped over the skins to extract flavour, tannins and colour. The wine was left in contact with the skins for 4 – 7 days after fermentation was completed. The wine completes malolactic fermentation in oak barrels and, after racking off, the wine is returned to a combination of second fill French and American oak barrels for a period of 12 -16 months maturation prior to blending and bottling.