national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Simondium wine estate, Plaisir de Merle, releases sauvignon blanc 2009.

Plaisir de Merle, the wine estate at Simondium, just south of Paarl, off the road to Fransch Hoek, is one of the most beautiful farms in the Western Cape, and it produces some of the area’s most beautiful wines.

It was established in 1687 by a French Huguenot named Charles Marais, who was granted the land by Governor Simon van der Stel. Either he had a good eye for location or else he was just lucky. The setting of the farm, on the east-facing slopes of the Simonsberg, is magnificent, from the scenic and viticultural points of view (the vines escape the hot afternoon sun of the Cape summer).

Plaisir de Merle means, literally, pleasure of the blackbird, but the rather mysterious name seems to have been derived from the name chosen by Charles Marais three centuries ago: Le Plessis Marly, the name of his home village in France. By the time the splendid manor house (which still stands) was built in 1764 the farm had 35 000 vines. Today Plaisir de Merle is owned by the Distell liquor company and is spread over a total of 974 acres. Of this, 400 hectares are under vines and only 80 hectares have been reserved exclusively for wines carrying the Plaisir de Merle label (grapes from other vines are sold to other producers).

The farm has had only one cellarmaster/winemaker over the past 17 years, Niel Bester. Present annual output is about 40,000 cases of eight different own-label wines, four-fifths of the total quantity being red.

A new release from the farm is its Plaisir de Merle sauvignon blanc 2009. As one would expect from this source, the quality is excellent. Sauvignon blanc can be rather sharp on the palate, the famous gooseberry and cat’s pee effect. This Plaisir sauvignon does have the typical crispness of the cultivar, but it also has a lovely, almost sweet, luscious tropical fruit character, and a lingering aftertaste. The wine is a bright colour with a green tinge, and it has a fruity bouquet. Alcohol content is 13 percent. Total production of this 2009 vintage is about 45,000 bottles. The grapes used for this wine came from four different vineyards ranging in age from eight to 25 years.

This 2009 sauvignon blanc from Plaisir de Merle retails at about R80 a bottle. Obviously, it is a first-rate summer drink, by itself or with a wide variety of foods. Plaisir de Merle is about 50 minutes’ drive from Cape Town and the farm is open for tastings and sales. Phone 021 874 1071.