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Downes Mount Bullet Merlot 2017


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94 pts Tim Atkin – Picked comparatively early but still showing over 15% alcohol in 2017, Mount Bullet is typically plush and intense. Produced from five different clones, it’s brooding, tannic and concentrated, with a sheen of 30% new wood, sinewy, grippy tannins and enough acidity to freshen and lengthen the finish. 2022-27

96 pts John Platter – Always a big, sumptuous wine. 17 has 15% alcohol yet its fine integrated acidity & general balance add a lively lightness. The grainy tannins are firm but supple, the flavors rich & deep but there’s also restraint. Oak is obvious, but should integrate in time.

92 pts Wine Advocate – Juicy and lush with a full nose of red, black and blue fruit tones, the 2017 Mount Bullet Merlot blasts out of the glass with juicy fruits, a delightful oak expression and gobs of complexity. Full-bodied, the palate is succulent and delivers notions of plum pie, blackberry reduction and chocolate-covered blueberries and cherries with a soft herbal essence. The wine shows a broad and expansive mid-palate with well-judged acidity and fine-grained tannins before concluding with generous, somersaulting flavors of juicy plum and vanilla crème brûlée that lingers with elements of crème de cassis and redcurrant. It’s an impressive wine that should last until its 15th birthday. Bravo! 2021-2032

Technical Notes

Presenting the prestigious Downes Mount Bullet Merlot 2017, an artisanal creation born from the passionate hands and hearts at Downes Family Vineyards. This extraordinary wine encapsulates the lush, vibrant landscapes of South Africa’s Western Cape, mirroring the dynamic interplay between the region’s unique terroir and the meticulous art of winemaking. Every vine in the Downes Family Vineyards is nurtured with profound care and attention, flourishing under the generous African sun while cooled by the gentle ocean breezes. Within this idyllic setting, the Mount Bullet Merlot grapes develop their signature depth, structure, and intensity, yielding a wine that is nothing short of mesmerizing. Crafted with love, precision, and an unwavering commitment to excellence, the Downes Mount Bullet Merlot 2017 is not just a beverage; it is a celebration, an experience, and an authentic expression of the soul of South African vineyards.

Technical Notes

  • Grape Variety: 100% Merlot
  • Vineyard Location: Western Cape, South Africa
  • Vineyard Management: Sustainable and environmentally friendly viticulture practices are passionately implemented, fostering the growth of healthy, vibrant vines and the production of high-quality grapes.
  • Harvesting: Grapes are selectively hand-harvested at their optimum ripeness, ensuring a perfect balance of sweetness, acidity, and flavor in the final wine.
  • Fermentation: Employing temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for the fermentation process, the delicate flavors and aromas inherent to Merlot are meticulously preserved and enhanced.
  • Aging Process: Aged in French oak barrels for a predetermined period, this process imparts subtle hints of oak, vanilla, and tannins, adding complexity and structure to the wine.
  • Alcohol Content: Around 14% – 14.5%
  • Bottling: Conducted at the estate with minimal intervention to preserve the integrity and character of the wine from vineyard to bottle.


QUESTION: What would you pay for truly GREAT Merlot?

The most expensive wines in Bordeaux come from the “right bank” of the Garonne River and are predominantly Merlot driven, the most expensive of which is Chateau Le Pin, which now sells for $4,000/btl bottle. (yes – you read that right!) Petrus is not far behind. Once you get outside France, there’s Italy with wines like Ornellaia’s Masseto which sells for $800/btl bottle. There are other great Italian Merlot-predominant wines in the $200 – $300 range, but not that many. When it comes to the “new world” Merlots, you’ve got wines like Duckhorn ‘Three Palms’ at $120/btl or Shaeffer and Cakebread at $75/btl. There’s a handful of others in that $50-$75 range, but that’s it really. There’s not much from the southern hemisphere – notably, James Irvine’s ‘Grand’ Merlot from Eden Valley at $75/btl, is one of the best.

And then there’s this wine – Downes Family ‘Mt Bullet’ 2017 (trades in South Africa as Shannon Vineyards). Close your eyes, and stylistically, this is like drinking top flight, right bank Bordeaux, which would easily sell for $400+/btl. It is our opinion that this IS the best Merlot in the new world. Of course, we’re biased, but you’re welcome to prove us wrong. Even though this is pricey when it comes to this category, if you pay attention to what’s inside your glass, instead of what’s written on the label, you’ll quickly agree with us – this is an absolute steal!




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