93 pts Tim Atkin MW 2020
It may not (quite) scale the same heights of the 2017, but this five-way red Bordeaux blend is still a very assured wine from the Barlows. Cassis and red berry flavours are framed by 35% new wood, with a sprig of mint adding perfume. 2022-27.
92 pts Vinous Feb 2021
The 2018 John X Merriman is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec matured in oak for 20 months. It offers an attractive nose of black plum, blueberry and violet scents, plus a subtle marine note in the background. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannins, a generous pinch of black pepper on the entry, good weight and the focus and precision I have come to expect from this top cuvée from Rustenberg. Classy. 2021-2037
The wine itself is a Bordeaux-style blend, with all of the fruit coming from the Estate, and made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the greater of which depends on which varietal has a better showing over the other in any vintage. The John X Merriman is therefore a wonderful representation of the Estate, as well as the characteristics of a vintage.
This vintage was impacted by the fourth year of the ongoing drought in the region. The 2017 Winter was cold and dry, followed by a dry Spring and Summer, with bouts of unusual weather. A number of thunder storms resulted in a late onset of additional vigour in the vineyards. Unsettled weather and wind during flowering, along with a freak hail storm and low levels of soil moisture decreased yields by 20% to 50%. The harvest began closer to its average start date and the smaller berries and bunches yielded lower juice volumes per ton. The lower yields resulted in the
wines showing excellent concentration and body, producing rich, robust reds and fruit forward, expressive whites and rosé.
The John X Merriman is a powerful wine that rewards aging. In its youth the wine is worth decanting and expresses cassis, black currant and dark fruits complemented with cigar tobacco and sour cherry notes. As the wine ages and its fine grained tannins soften and a softer more savoury palate develops revealing wonderful drinkability and tertiary complexity.