Once regarded as Cabernet Sauvignon’s lesser sidekick, Merlot is now considered its equal by many. Little is known about the origin of the varietal, but it has been cultivated in Bordeaux since the 18th century.

The block used for our Circumstance Merlot is planted on the south-west facing slopes of the Schapenberg, at an altitude of 240 to 260 meters above sea level, and a mere 4 kms from the Atlantic Ocean. Strong south-easterly winds help control growth and crop yield. Soils are of sandstone origin with medium size stones, helping with both drainage and moisture retention. Production was approximately 5 tons/ha.

At Waterkloof, we pride ourselves on not spraying any chemical herbicides, fungicides or pesticides in our vineyards. We produce our own compost and natural preparations, which we then apply with our work horses, as opposed to heavy tractors. These practices ensure loose soil with more life, where the vines can spread their roots as they please, taking up everything they need from our rich and complex earth. We believe that regenerative farming leads to terroir-driven wines, which are truly made in the vineyard.


We harvest according to taste and spend a lot of time in the vineyards to see how the flavors develop.  Grapes are picked by hand into small picking crates, taking care to not over fill them. The whole bunches were hand sorted and placed into our open-top wooden fermenters via gravity. Natural fermentation started spontaneously by utilizing the wild yeasts present on the fruit. Punch downs (twice a day) by feet were used during fermentation to ensure a soft and slow extraction of colour and tannin. The wine spent 30 days on the skins to help integrate the tannins and stabilize the colour. The skins were separated from the juice through a gentle basket pressing. The wine went through malolactic fermentation in barrel and was then aged in new (8%), second and third fill (92%) French barrels for 27 months, and then another four months in our wooden fermenters, to ensure an elegant wine with silky soft tannins. The wine received no fining, which allowed the grape to be purely expressed in the wine. Only sulphur was added and no other additions, such as tartaric acid or enzymes, were allowed.


The current harvest is determined by the conditions of the previous years. With this taken into account, we could see that all of our hard work in 2018 certainly paid off in this year’s harvest. The leaves were still green for more than a month after picking the grapes. We welcomed a bit of rain just after the 2018 harvest, which also helped the vine to build up some much-needed reserves.

The 2018 winter was cold and the vines could go into proper dormancy. During this time, we worked hard to build up the nutrients required in the vineyard for the summer growing period. At Waterkloof we are always tweaking the processes.  One example, of many, is the deep bed system, where we put plant cuttings and manure into an area that used to be aerated by chickens scratching around. This time round, the chickens were substituted by three beautiful little pigs to dig channels into the compost to turn it.  This mixture was especially beneficial during the drought, as it is a rich source of carbon that improves the water retention ability of the soils.

We experienced an even budburst during a cool spring but had a lot of wind during flowering which led to uneven berry set on some of the blocks. To help the vine ripen properly, we only kept the more developed bunches on the vine.

The summer growing season was fairly cool, except for a few warmer days in October. We were also very happy to welcome some rain in January, which accompanied by the wind, led to the soil receiving good moisture without having humidity build-up on the grapes that could cause rot.

The 2019 harvest commenced the last week of January but went into full swing from the first week of February. We picked our last grapes at the end of March. On the younger blocks, the yield was down by about 10%, but the older blocks produced more or less the same.

The whites showed a lot of concentration and vibrant acidity. With the reds, we had lovely small berries with thick skins.  During processing, we once again worked gently to avoid over-extracting and let Mother Nature take her course with our natural ferments.


A vibrant nose with aromas of plums, sour cherries and an earthy undertone.  The wine has a great tannin structure and lingers well. I especially enjoy the lifted acidity on it that helps to carry the aromas on the palate. A lamb chop on the braai would pair nicely with our Merlot. I normally like to decant the wine and also chill it down a little to around 16 ˚ C.

THE NUMBERS (5500 bottles produced)

Alc: 14.5 %

TA: 5.2 g/l

pH: 3.6

RS: 2.1 g/l