jamie goode's wine blog: So I was wrong...and another good Merr-loww

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So I was wrong...and another good Merr-loww

Scratch my comments in the post below. The ones where I reckoned I could taste OK with a cold. Yesterday I could taste pretty well; tonight, not a thing.

My sense of smell has deserted me, and there's very little fun to be had from wine when you can't smell anything, save for the physiological effects of the alcohol. Port was a bit better: I managed to get some pleasure from the sugar and tannin on my tongue. But I still couldn't 'get' the wine at all. It's like looking at a picture through frosted glass.

I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll have recovered: the big worry is that with each successive cold there might be some cumulative damage to the olfactory epithelium - just as you get with your hearing from attending too many Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, Gary Moore, AC/DC and Saxon concerts in your youth. It's concerning to think that as you get older you lose the fine nuances, and end up just appreciating the brutal, obvious wines - or find yourself relying on your memory and reputations to assist you in sorting good from bad.

Last night I tasted a good Merlot; one which caught me a bit by surprise. I really wasn't expecting it to be this good. For a start, it was from South Africa, and secondly, it was from an unnamed producer, bottled as Marks & Spencer's own label. But this is pretty serious stuff, and it went very well with the barbecue I was cooking. So much so, that I ended up not bothering to open any other samples, and drunk most of the bottle.

Marks & Spencer Silver Tree Merlot 2005 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Sealed with a Diam. This lovely Merlot has a gravelly, minerally nose with nice spicy depth to the palate, which displays appropriately ripe (but not jammy) fruit. It's fruity, but not overly so, and there's just a hint of greenness here, but it's a good sort of greenness - this is a wine perfectly in balance. Satisfying stuff with some old world elegance. Very stylish and a bargain at this price. I reckon this must come from a serious producer. 89/100 (£8.99 Marks & Spencer)

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At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Cru Master said...

Hi Jamie

This may interest you:


With a little fishing around I found this:


Apparently Silver Tree is made by Chris Williams - who is the winemaker at Meerlust.

Byt apparently the wine comes from Bellevue Estate - it's all a little confusing.

But I did suspect Meerlust.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Peter May - The Pinotage Club said...

Crumaster -- you misread my post on that forum. The Silvertree Shiraz comes from Bellevue -- the Merlot does not.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Phil said...

And according to quaffersoffers reduced to £6.70 from Monday September 3rd

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Phil, for that price, it's one I'd buy a few of...I like its style

At 3:06 PM, Anonymous keith prothero said...

What is this about old age and big brassy wines then? were you thinking of me when you wrote that,young fellow!!!
Actually,my palate is changing,but in a different direction.In fact,I am beginning to get worried that I may turn out like Broadbent.

At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Crafted in South Africa"? Pretentious or what?

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous keith prothero said...

Why pretentious anon anon anon anon

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Hi Keith, I sort of agree with anon that the label is pretentious. I don't think it's a big deal, but I can't remember seeing another label which described the wine as "crafted in..." Labels raise expectations and words such as "crafted" are freighted with certain implications. Look at it from another point of view - you could say that a brand such as Blue Nun is "crafted in Germany". Technically this is correct yet the word craft presupposes an exalted level of quality and expertise above the humdrum "made in". It is certainly meant to make us think that the wine is superior in some way, aspiring above the quotidian wine. Secondly, it suggests the wine-making process is a kind of craft itself (as in a noble art); perhaps a few traditionalists still make wine by hand, but mostly it is achieved through computer regulated stainless fermentations and chemical analysis. Modern winemaking is largely a science rather than an art. Surely what is far more important is the provenance of the grapes and who is making the wine. This winery (and others) should have the confidence (for they have the pedigree) to state simply "Made in South Africa" or "Produce of South Africa" as their imprimatur of quality.

At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

Perhaps Doug .To my mind though(and I suppose I had better declare a vested interest in a new winery in South Africa--and France incidentally)a wine is crafted by the winemaker.OK some may argue with the word"crafted" for cheap wines,but I suspect the person who made the Merlot Jamie reported favourably on,was indeed a very capable winemaker,as good merlot is hard to find in the Cape,especially as a single varietal.
Certainly,the winemaker I am in partnership,has an excellent reputation for producing quality wines,and I have no hesitation in describing him as a craftsman.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Peter May - The Pinotage Club said...

Doug -- don't blame the winery (
whichever one it may be).

This is a M&S label, written and designed by them.

'Crafted' -- I rather like it, shows some sort of pride.

Of course I prefer "Grown, made and bottled on the Estate"

But if it is made by the person and at the winery where we think the wine comes from, then 'crafted' is about right.

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Keith and Peter - no disrespect to the wine, but to me the badge of honour, as it were, is the fact that the grapes are estate grown and domaine bottled. Crafted in South Africa doesn't do the wine justice, because it is too vague. (You're right - may well be an M & S label) Have you ever seen a bottle which said: Crafted in France, Italy, California, New Zealand etc?

Of course, the winemaker is an important part of the process, but the real part of wine is what Nature delivers. You can't craft a great wine out of poor quality grapes; but, conversely, you can craft a bad wine out of great quality grapes. Winemakers, or vignerons, as they prefer to be called in France, use words such as respect and humility when discussing how their winemaking interprets the particular nature of the vintage rather than the language of "corrective intervention".

“I don’t like the word winemaker. It doesn’t mean anything to me. You make shoes; you don’t make wine. I prefer to call myself a “wine helper” You help the wine make itself. That’s how I consider my job. That’s the way to keep a low profile – under nature, under the climate, under the fruit. Wine is a great gift.”

Louis Barruol – quoted in The New France – Andrew Jefford

Keith, I'm sure the winemaker has done a cracking job on this wine and is talented at his job. But, to paraphrase James Joyce, the true craftman is invisible and should remain so.

Anyway - it's only a label!

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous keith prothero said...

Interesting debate.Not sure I agree with you Doug,as although I agree the quality of the grapes are crucial,I also believe an unskilled winemaker,can turn such quality grapes into lousy wine.
Estate grown,made and bottled does not worry me so much.The parcel or vineyard from the estate may be inferior,to others on the estate,and/or the winemaker may not be up to scratch.
I liken a winemaker,to a chef---if he is great at his job,and has good produce,he should be able to make a quality wine..
My partner,will be sourcing grapes from a number of farms,with which he is very familiar,He asks as advisor to some of the farmers and keeps a very close eye on quality of grapes.Only buys if happy with this. Actually gives a lot more flexibility,than some estate wineries,especially when there is a surplus of good fruit available,as there is in South Africa,Australia,and of course many areas in France--such as Roussillon.
At the end of the day,of course,it is the quality of the wine that really matters,and I will send you a few bottles of ours when the first vintage is available in 2009.

At 11:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not too sure what you mean by greeness, but you should check outAlta Mira Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 also from Marks & Spencer which I would describe as having a redness. More information here: Alta Mira Cabernet Sauvignon 2006


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