When you think of Cape wines, Plasir de Merle definitely ranks amongst the favourites. Situated at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains between Paarl and Franschhoek and steeped in history, the estate aims to make wine that honours its past and terroir.
Niel Bester, who has been at the helm of Plaisir de Merle’s winemaking since the winery’s inception, catches up with House and Leisure about his winemaking journey.
did you always want to be a winemaker? if not, what did you want to be when you were growing up?
From a young age I knew that I wanted to work outside, with nature, probably more so with animals, but after starting my studies in Animal Sciences I got interested in winemaking (more so drinking!) and decided to change to Oenology And Viticulture.
if you were a wine, what would it be?
A red blend! There are many facets to a blend, hopefully also to my personality. Blending is a way for me to show my creative side.
what’s the oddest (or most memorable) wine you’ve ever tasted?
Just after starting as a winemaker I was in Bloemfontein for a wine tasting. We were at a Portuguese restaurant and the owner insisted that I went home with them to taste the wine that he was making from grapes grown in his backyard. Well it didn’t end there as we travelled from house to house to taste the wines that his friends were making as well. The wines were mouldy, oxidised and well, undrinkable but I had to be polite and lot of the wine ended up in flower pots.
what is your favourite wine to make?
Blends. I love the creativity of blending. As the saying goes ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.
what tastes remind you of your childhood?
Aniseed – because of the buttermilk rusks my mum use to bake. It was a regular after-school lunch for me.
what’s your current favourite cultivar, and why?
I love working with Petit verdot. It is such a powerful wine, but if you can control it, the lovely tannins and intense colour is the ideal partner to give structure and mouthfeel in a blend, even as a single varietal wine.
what do you want people to experience/ get out of your wine when they drink it?
I hope that their expectations are met. That it adds value to that moment and that it plays a part in creating memories of the people that you enjoy it with.
which part of the world should every serious wine-lover visit?
The Douro Valley in Portugal. Incredible scenery, architecture, people, wines and port.
what would your last meal – and last drink – be?
A huge seafood platter (calamari, crayfish, prawns, salmon,…) and Plaisir de Merle Grand Brut MCC.