Private Tasting: South Africa Merlot vs. Washington Merlot

By Kori ~ May 5th, 2010.

Recently, we had what turned out to be a South Africa Merlot versus Washington Merlot showdown in one of our double blind private tasting dinners featuring the 2005 Meerlust Merlot from South Africa and the 2004 Fielding Hills Merlot from Washington State. For a more complete description of how we set up these private tastings, please refer to How We Taste.

We had tasted both of these wines previously. It is always interesting to see if and/or how wines change over time. This tasting confirmed our Quality ratings from the previous tastings. Both of these wines are very good and paired well with Mom’s dinner of mixed green salad with fresh fruit, smothered steak with tomatoes, rice, squash, and peas.

Mom (LaGayle) and Dad (John) discovered Meerlust on their trip to South Africa last year. Meerlust, located in Stellenbosch, South Africa, has a long and proud history dating back to the late 1600’s. Mom and Dad thought it was one of the best wineries that they visited on their trip. Winemaker Chris Williams gave them a tour of the estate, led them through a private tasting in the wine cellar, and graciously agreed to do a video interview. Once they returned home, Dad purchased some of the Meerlust wines to try against some of the other South African wines they enjoyed on the trip as well as to see how they would stack up against some of our favorites from Washington. The 2004 Meerlust Rubicon won our South African Red Blends wine tasting dinner last summer.

Fielding Hills Winery, one of our favorite Washington wineries, is a small, family-owned winery located in Wenatchee. Owner/winemaker Mike Wade and his wife Karen are longtime apple and cherry growers who have turned a middle portion of their orchard near Mattawa into a vineyard. Their Riverbend Vineyard, planted in 1998, is in the Wahluke Slope AVA. They source all of their fruit, including the fruit used to produce this Merlot, from Riverbend Vineyard.

2005 Meerlust Merlot (Stellenbosch, South Africa): Deep red in color. Bell peppers and oak come through on the nose; black cherry, blackberry, and other dark fruits on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium to high tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Southern Hemisphere Wine Center (California), $22; Available elsewhere, $22 to $26

2004 Fielding Hills Merlot (Wahluke Slope, Washington): Deep, dark garnet in color. Very aromatic with red cherry, black licorice, and pepper jelly on the nose. Coffee, caramel, berry liqueur, chocolate, and leather on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $32

Filed under: American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Merlot, Red Wine, South African Wine, Washington State Wine, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $25

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