Coincidence or Is it’s Just South Africa Week?

An Old-World wine from an up-and-coming world-class destination.

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Last week I was mainly working on two things: My skiing and my Actuarial lingo.  I am doing a consulting gig for a reputable Insurance Company in Rhode Island where I met Dale, a colleague from South Africa.  We briefly talked about education, our career paths, collaborative work, the beautiful landscapes scattered throughout his native country and specifically about Stellenbosch, or ‘Wine Country’ as he eloquently put it.  Fast forward to the weekend and I found myself  skiing at Sunday River.  On my way up to Maine, I picked up a copy of the Economist and surprise, surprise, I found half a dozen references to South Africa and two lengthy articles about Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president.  Well, if that wasn’t enough, my skiing plans included meeting up with a friend who I often help him select wines for his collection.  At the end of our first ten runs, we decided to break for lunch at Brookside’s Condominiums.  As a thank you gesture for my helping him build-up his wine celar, he gave me a bottle that he had stumbled upon in “New Hampshire:”  The bottle was a Meerlust Red 2017, a typical blend most commonly found in Bordeaux: 60% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot.   The wine opened up mildly aromatic with floral, peppery notes highlighted by freshly crushed pomegranate.  However, the wine was really tight and flat.  After half a glass, I was unimpressed with it and let the rest of the experiment, to aeration.  After all, I had made the mistake of mentally comparing the Meerlust Red 2017 to one of my favorite wines from South Africa: Glen Carlou Grand Classique another Bordeaux-esque blend from Paarl.  About six hours later the wine actually developed some complex aromas and flavors.  But the experiment wasn’t done yet.  Unintentionally, I let it rest for another full day and those initial floral aromas gave way to nuances of toast, leather and minerals. Once the wine developed complex flavors, it really reminded me of a Medoc wine from Saint-Julien, but the wine is from South Africa!  After doing a little bit of research, I found the wine at the Wine and Liquor Outlet in Portsmouth, NH for just under $20.00, a decent QPR wine.  So, was it coincidence that last week was all about South Africa, my colleague, The Economist and even my weekend bounty?  Well, I don’t believe in coincidence. In the words of Morpheous in the Matrix Reloaded, “I believe in Providence.”  I ended up enjoying the wine for its character and charm with some help from oxygenation, leaving the final glass loaded with tobacco, plum and dark chocolate notes and some grip thanks to the tannins.

For those who have tried the trendy new-world style wines from Paarl and even other Stellenbosch wines such as Stark-Conde, this Meerlust Red is a tried and true rendition of the old-world style.But don’t believe me, the real experiment is when you’d try it yourself.  The unintentional experiment of leaving it exposed to oxygen for too long is a good indication that the wine will age well. In fact, I could argue that the this 2017 iteration of Meerlust Red will not be ready to drink until 2022, but why wait?  In either case, as the week came to an end all I can say is Go South Africa and cheers!

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