95 pts Greg Sherwood MW Oct 2022
n November 2019, winemaker Wim Truter joined Meerlust, taking over from Chris Williams to become only the third winemaker to take the reins at this historic estate. Chris had finally followed his own calling and decided to move on to the next chapter of his winemaking career to further grow his own Foundry Winery brand. So, while technically the 2018 vintage is still regarded as the fruits of Chris’s labours, Wim Truter has done a fine job overseeing not only the release of this new Rubicon blend but also the declassification of the 2019 Rubicon vintage into the Meerlust Red 2019 for the first time since 2011.
There are few premium brands in South Africa who produce the high quantity of quality wine that Meerlust Estate does, and so it was inevitable that the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lock-down would have a disproportionately negative effect on sales of this world-famous brand that is listed by almost every leading hotel, restaurant and bar in South Africa as well as in a never-ending list of top restaurants and 5 Star hotels around the world. As a result, consumers have had a longer run of availability with the exceptional 2017 Rubicon that was rated 96+/100 on the Fine Wine Safari. But the time has finally come for the 2017 Rubicon to pass the baton over to the highly anticipated 2018 vintage. Meerlust Rubicon is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s greatest wine ambassadors. If you have not tasted it yet, you are indeed missing out on one of the great Bordeaux blends produced in the Cape.
The 2018 Rubicon is a classical blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, with every parcel of each variety fermented separately before undergoing malolactic fermentation in 300 litre barrels and large foudré. After 8 months in barrel, the components were blended and given another 10 months in barrel for harmonization before bottling. Wonderfully deep in colour, the nose is splendidly expressive showing quintessential Cabernet Sauvignon notes of pressed violets, black plum, sun raisin black currants, black salty liquorice, black chai tea, sweet cedar spice and layers of graphite and spearmint. While the aromatics are dominated by rich, dark berry fruits, the palate is classically proportioned with plenty of overt elegance and textural finesse – a great feat considering the heat and drought of the 2018 vintage. The extra bottle age before release has undoubtedly been a positive for this powerful, structured blend, helping to further round out the suave creamy tannins and harmonise the earthy black berry fruit layers, making the acids polished, glassy and fresh rather than taut and crunchy like many other 2018 reds. Unexpectedly approachable in its youth, I would have no hesitancy to cellar this super smart blend for another 10 to 15+ years.
95 pts Tim Atkin MW 2022
Back where it belongs among the elite wine brands of South Africa, the 2018 Rubicon is a worthy successor to the stellar 2017 release. Featuring Cabernet Sauvignon with 33% Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, this is an elegant, polished, refined wine from a hot, dry vintage that illustrates the benefit of a cooler site. Floral, balanced and poised. 2025-32
4 ½ Stars 2023 Platter’s South African Wine Guide
Renowned Bordeaux flagship cab-based, 67% in 18 (93 pt) with merlot, cab franc, petit verdot partners. Enticing perfumed layers, elegantly concentrated plush, ripe fruit hint at future complexity; still unformed, like 17 ***** (95 pts) tightly sheathed by dense tannins, 56% new oak.
91 pts Wine Spectator
Broad and open-knit, this harmonious red integrates fine tannins with a fragrant overtone of cured tobacco, featuring baked currant and fig, fresh and loamy earth, black licorice twist and milled pepper. Fresh and focused on the finish, where the tobacco note lingers on. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Drink now through 2028.
The 2018 harvest season was really challenging, due to a prolonged drought which some believe to be the worst in 100 years showing its impact. The winter months only cooled off later with higher-than-normal temperatures and the farm only receiving 80% of the expected winter rainfall. The dry weather throughout the season did have its advantages as vines were healthy, with little or no pests and diseases being recorded. The limited water availability also resulted in a smaller crop due to lighter bunches and very small berries. This coupled with the night temperatures that were cooler than usual during the ripening period, resulted in excellent colour and flavour development.
The 2018 Rubicon is a classically proportioned blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, every parcel of each variety was fermented separately before undergoing malolactic fermentation in 300 L barrels and large Foudré. After 8 months in barrel, the components were blended and given another 10 months in barrel for harmonization before bottling.
This is a vintage that is more approachable in youth because of the ripeness and richness levels attained in 2018 but will provide great complexity with further maturation.
Can age for 10 – 20 years, provided wine is stored in ideal cellar conditions