Groote Post Darling Hills Merlot 2014

JUST THE FACTS

Price: R115 (as of Sep 2016)
Winery: Groote Post
Varietal: Merlot
Wine Region: Coastal Region
Country: South Africa

JONO SAYS

Quality: 12/20
Value: 2/5
Ponce Factor: Moderate
Occasion: Date night, or Sunday Roast lunch

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I find it intriguing that Paul Giamatti is so much like a merlot. Short, rounded, a little soft…
It makes the Sideways experience one big episode of epicurean irony.
As for this Old Medal Trophy winner…
Colour may be a delightful dense and vibrant red, but after the promising visual cue, the rather closed nose was a disappointment. The palate was pleasantly clean, and suitably dry, with some prominent cherry fruit acidity, as well as a touch of eucalyptus. But the whole affair was over rather quickly, and didn’t try too hard to lure you back for a sequel.

As far as structure is concerned, tannins are characteristically soft, and mouthfeel is med(+), which I suppose is something of a saving grace.

Know your oats. Or grapes.

The Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties are often blended together; have similar primary fruit flavours; are both are grown in pretty much every wine region in South Africa; both produce red wine; both are ubiquitous in South African bottle stores and grocery store wine aisles; and each one is often described in reference to the other (Merlot has been called “Cabernet without the pain”). But despite all this, it should be noted that the two red wines are still quite different in style. Here are just a few broad brushstrokes differences that may help you decide side of the fence your bread is buttered…so to speak:
Tannins – CS (especially the young ones) are often characterized by heavy mouth-sapping tannins, whereas merlot is most often far softer, and less imposing.
Body – Merlot grapes generally ripen earlier than CS, they are larger, have thinner skin, and they generally have a higher yield per hectare. This makes them no only a safer bet come harvest time, but the resulting wine is often just a little less intense, less concentrated…not as brawny as the later-ripening CS counterpart from the same vineyard.
Ageability – Merlots can seldom age past 10 years, and the warmer climate South African examples (like this one from the Western Cape’s Darling region) would being beating the odds by being drinkable at the 7 or 8 year-mark. CS in contrast regularly last up to 20 years or longer (again, with cooler climate wines showing a little more longevity).
Margin for error: The combination of CS’s generally higher tannin levels, heavier mouthfeel, and occasional lack of ripeness means that a poor choice on a Cab Sauv can be far more consequential than a dodgy pick from the merlot bin. If your date is not a wine fanatic, merlot will almost always be the softer, fruitier, safer bet.

Then again, “safe” is for bookkeepers and insurance salesman. You’re a Wild stallion. A frontiersman of the first order.

Sure, some cabs have ruined a few dream dates, and offended some important clients… but then no one ever pinned a medal of honor on a merlot-swilling diplomat, did they?

Decoding the Old Mutual Wine Awards

All wines are tasted blind (IE judges have no idea what they are tasting) which gives rise to some glorious controversy. This year the most decorated wine at the competition was a R35.00 Secret Cellars No.235 Chenin Blanc from Ultra Liquors, which won awards for:
1. Best Cape Chenin Blanc
2. Highest scoring wine, as judged by the International judges panel
3. Best Discovery of the Show

So…if you are still reading, as opposed to being on your way to Ultra Liquors…

Here is a little statistical breakdown on the OMTWS medal system.

Trophy awards are only given to the best wines in their genre. Basically the highest scoring gold medal winner in its class. The Groote Post Darling Hills Merlot 204 featured here is one such trophy wine, being the top Merlot from the
Gold medals represent less than 4% of the playing field, which (statistically speaking) makes it quite an achievement. The wine must score more than 90 out of 100.
Silver medals scores 80-89 out of 100. This year there were 113 silver medal wines. Which puts a silver medalist in the top 15% of the field.
Bronze Medals: The 2016 awards featured 1067 wines were entered, of which over 500 of them received Old Mutual Bronze medals. So it is worth noting that a bronze medal means little more than it only just within the top half of entered wines.
It is little more than a “niece to know” and definitely shouldn’t convince you that you need to part with a few extra shekels just for the sticker.

About the Author

Jono Le Feuvre is not a bean counter. He is a bean roaster. Bean roasters carry far more street cred & get to speak at bizarre niche gatherings of enquiring-but-unhinged-minds. They also usually have addictive tendencies. When he is not roasting beans he is pulling corks. Or deftly removing screwcap enclosures. But you can read more about him here.