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Monday, August 10, 2009


One of the most unusual ways of selling wine that I have heard of comes from De Meye, a relatively little known but distinguished wine farm at Stellenbosch.

De Meye is a 100-hectare property (50 hectares under vines) in a secluded spot at Muldersvlei, about 10 kilometres north of the town of Stellenbosch. he farm is owned by the Myburgh family, who have been involved with agriculture in this area for five generations. The present owners are Jan Myburgh and his son Philip. Jan’s great-grandfather made wine here a long time ago, but the modern history of the place begins in 1998, when it bottled its first wines.

The unusual name, no “r” at the end of Meye, comes from a little river in Holland in the area where the Myburghs lived before emigrating to South Africa in the seventeenth century.

De Meye now produces 14,000 cases of wine a year, 80% of it red, and its shiraz and cabernet sauvignon have earned four stars in the Platter wine guide. These wines retail at about R72 a bottle. The cellar’s flagship wine (also four stars) is a red blend of cabernet (81 %) and shiraz called Trutina, which means “balance” in Latin. It is described as having tastes of dark chocolate and black berries, with a spicy finish. It retails at about R89.

Less expensive wines from De Meye are an unwooded chardonnay (about R48), a shiraz rosé (R40), a chenin blanc (R40) and a red wine range called Little River, a cabernet, a shiraz and a cabernet-shiraz blend at R48 a bottle.

De Meye has a tasting room, and it is here that the ingenious marketing comes into play. The cellar makes a wine called Recession Red, a name which shows a sense of humour and a sense of realism. Visitors pay a R5 deposit for a magnum bottle (double the size of an ordinary bottle), fill it from a small tank in the tasting room and cork the wine themselves. The charge for the wine is only R35. The empty magnum can be later returned for recycling and a fresh magnum is filled with Recession Red for another R35.

I think this is a very good idea, and one that deserves to succeed. The tasting room has a rustic fireplace and regularly hosts art exhibitions, the present one being by landscape artist Cathy Milner, wife of De Meye’s winemaker Marcus Milner, and her students.

The tasting fee is R15 for five wines, refundable with any wine purchase, cheese platters are available for R28, and for R40 a bottle you can buy lavender essential oil produced on the farm and called Isabella after a member of the Myburgh family. I know very little about lavender oil, but apparently you can use it to induce sleep (a drop on the pillow at night), as an antiseptic and inhalant, and as an aid in treating bee stings and insect bites and keeping moths out of cupboards.

The people who run De Meye are environmentally aware. For example, they use ducks for biological snail control. They received a hundred ducklings in May last year, and early this year a second team of ducklings arrived and were transported into the vineyards by tractor and trailer, to begin their duty among the vines.

De Meye is about 50 minutes’ drive from Cape Town and is well worth a visit, if only to try the Recession Red at R35 a magnum! Phone 021 884 4131. – Michael Green