Plaisir de Merle: A Little Piece Of France in Simondium
Situated in the heart of Simondium, Plaisir de Merle is an idyllic Cape winery that produces a range of award-winning, French-inspired wines.
'The New Wave craze has peaked,' says Thomas Webb of Thelema. 'New and different isn’t enough of a story anymore. People want consistency, history and legacy. Otherwise, where’s the substance?'
If it’s substance you want, well, let us elucidate you on the legacy of Plaisir de Merle.
A hidden gem by all accounts, but a gem by virtue of its great age and the consistent quality of its wines throughout 300 years of winemaking. One of the original Huguenot farms along the banks of the Berg River in the Drakenstein Valley, in a place called Simondium, named for Reverend Pierre Simond in the 1700s.
The farm’s legacy is dotted with grand guardians imbued with the values of the griffin, a mythological creature that serves as a symbol to the Estate. Signifying the vision of an eagle and the courage of a lion, these values have informed the various men and women who have stood sentinel over the vast lands of Plaisir de Merle for over three centuries.
Plaisir de Merle means ‘At the Pleasure of the Blackbird’ in French and is derived from the name ‘Les Plessis Marly’, a small town in the middle of France and home to the first guardian, Charles Marais. Given its roots, the Estate remains defiantly French in the heart of Simondium.
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The wine is an ode to France and is made with only the noblest of grapes: Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Merlot.
Winemaker and Cellar Master Neil Bester has been with the winery since its commercial relaunch in 1993 and has since built on the teachings of Dr. Pontallier and made it his own as evidenced by the wine. British Master of Wine Tim Atkin has called Plaisir de Merle 'one of the best producers in the Simonsberg-Paarl'.
The success of Plaisir de Merle can be attributed to a long line of scientifically minded guardians. The Baron of Wynberg, Lord John Henry de Villiers, was known to say that the top 12 inches of soil was the true source of a nation’s wealth and prompted his fellows to apply science in their farming, warning them to avoid the gold and diamond market and rather focus on bettering the quality of the wine.
Wilkine Reina Henrica Schünke Hollway established a lab on the farm in 1831 and decided to set a new standard: no fortified or artificial materials were to be added to any wine from the estate, so each grape could retain its own sharp, characteristic bouquet.
Albertus Bernardus Johannes Bartman employed the first professional winemaker in South Africa, Otto Phfahl, who later went on to write a handbook on winemaking in the valley.
Nicolas Browse Gray explored the power of fruit farming in the valley and annually delivered his entire apple-plum crop to Buckingham Palace. We’d challenge you to find an Estate with more substance, speaking to the very nature of heritage.
To purchase Plaisir de Merle wines, visit the Vinoteque website.
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