Pinning down Nico van der Merwe between southern France and Stellenbosch is near impossible, as he spends nearly half his time at Saxenburgs owners Château Capion. Although transcontinental blends are the name of the game, van der Merwes own labels are purely South African for now. Mas Nicolas (mas is a house in southern France) is his flagship Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon blend of 500 cases, with Robert Alexander Shiraz (Nicos brothers name) a competent second label in more commercial quantities. "Making wine is an extension of my work at Saxenburg. I buy in grapes from Stellenbosch to Vredendal, use Saxenburgs cellar, and they do the admin. At the end of the day, we split profits 50/50," explains van der Merwe, but he plans to have his own cellar and vineyards in another 15 years, to make way for owner Adriaan Bührers five children. "Many winemakers stay on farms for years, then resign with nothing to show for it."

Van der Merwe stresses that his wines wont overlap stylistically with Saxenburgs. The 80% new wood is prominent in the unreleased second (2000) vintage of Mas Nicolas smoky blackcurrant, mocha flavours, while the Robert Alexander 99 (still available) shows more classic notes from age and 10 months in second- and third-fill oak.

Courtesy of WINETODAY

Robert Alexander Wines