Meerlust Rubicon had a great impact on the history of South African wine. First made in 1980, it essentially set the pattern for Bordeaux blends in the country. There was of course a few pioners at this front that only used Cabernet Sauvignon varietal such as Kanonkop (Paul Sauer) in 1973 but as a blend as per Bordeaux style Meerlust changed the scene. According to Hannes Myburgh, his father was inspired by Julious Cesar words “Alea iacta est. The die is cast,” leading his troops towards Rome in 49BC. As this was a irreversable moment in history as there was no turning back after crossing the Rubicon river as this profoundly shifted Roman politics. Nico Myburgh from the 7th generation of the Meerlust estate and father of the current custodian, was holidaying in Bordeaux when he discovered that the terroir in this area of France was similar to that of the Eerste River Valley. Both have a distinctive climate, characterised by a cooling sea breeze. And both have a soil structure made up of decomposed granite and clay. The red wines produced by the two regions, however, were very different. Unlike the Western Cape’s specified cultivars, Bordeaux thrived on producing blends.
Nico returned to Meerlust, filled with inspiration and the desire to create a blend of his own that would match those of the French. In 1980, after several years of experimentation together with winemaker Giorgio Dalla Cia, he announced the birth of the new blend. With proportions of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, a new style of wine had been created in South Africa. Like Caesar, there could be no turning back.
Nico and Giorgio had already considered a number of names for the new blend when Professor Dirk Opperman from the University of Stellenbosch, a friend of Nico’s suggested that “Rubicon” might be appropriate. The pair had, after all, crossed a new frontier – and changed the way South Africans thought about red wine.
The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vineyards are hand harvested from February through to March and each individual vineyard block is kept separate throughout the fermentation process and monitored until the moment of blending.