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hand harvesting in Stellenbosch, De Trafford Merlot
De Trafford Merlot Tasting hosted at Southern Guild Gallery
Merlot Fermentation graphs

Elevation 393Vertical Tasting Notes

These notes attempt to give some guidance to when best to drink our wines. The wines tasted were from our own library collection kept in an underground cellar. The conditions are good, but not ideal with ambient temperature going up to 18°C in the middle of the summer and down to 12°C in winter. This probably mirrors the average collector, but those with differing conditions should adjust accordingly.

Please note we started to get considerably better quality and longer corks since the 1996 vintage.  Many of the 1992 to 1995 vintages unfortunately vary a lot depending on the condition of the corks.

Please note that these notes should supersede the predictions of the fact sheets, which are prepared shortly after bottling. We will attempt to update these tasting notes every 2 years. We would welcome any feedback.


We planted our Elevation 393 vineyard in 1994 /1995 with the intention of producing a single blended wine based on Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. In the first three years we called the wine “Reserve”, bottled in magnums, until we were confident enough with what we were doing, to start the Elevation 393 label.

Tasting date: August 2015

Reserve 1997  Medium red colour, showing quite a bit of development. (A crumbly cork and low ullage). At first showed quite sweet fruit with developed fruitcake aromas. The wine really opened up over several hours to show more fruit intensity and nutty complexity. Many guests top 2 or 3 wines in the line-up. Silky smooth tannins on the palate with the same wonderful nutty, fruitcake flavours. Dry finish. Drink up, though showing well.

Reserve 1998  Deepish red colour, showing a bit of age with brownish red rim. Slightly meaty nose with dense fruitcake, nicely developed nose. Lovely big rich palate with similar fruitcake flavours. Quite chunky, but now softening tannins. Bit Cornas like. Drink, but keeping very well.

Reserve 1999  Medium deep red colour, showing a bit of age with a tawny red rim. Quite a pongy, ripe fruit nose. Very ripe, almost porty, sweet fruit palate. A little past its best, but still attractive to drink. The hot, dry vintage really showing.

2000    Quite a deep, youthful colour (for 16 years) – a bit of brownish red rim. Attractive, rich fruitcake, black cherry nose and cinnamon oil and other spice notes. Rich, soft palate. Ripe fruit, fruitcake and Christmas pudding flavours finishing on a drier panna Toni note. Drink now, but should keep 4 or 5 years.

2001    Colour a bit lighter than the 2000, but brighter and more youthful. Red cherry, fruitcake nose with some blackcurrant and smoked cinnamon notes. Very complex. A full palate with lots of flavours and a slight creaminess. Amazingly elegant for such a high alcohol wine. Quite developed, but drinking well. Drink now, but should keep several years.

No 2002 – a wet vintage

2003   Medium deep red colour. Showing just a bit of age with slight brick red edge. Some smoked meat notes on nose with dark cherry and some Christmas pudding. Dense, complex and youthful. Big, but refined, seamless palate. Density of fruit and savoury aspects mingling nicely with a long finish. Just at its peak and should keep at least another 10 years.

2004   Medium deep red colour. Showing just a bit of age with slight brick red edge. Rich red berry fruit and spicy cinnamon notes. Less dimension than 2003. Quite pure and fresh. Attractive dusty notes and red cherry too. Attractive, full palate. Not quite as rich and ripe and as much depth as most other vintages, with a more austere, claret like feel, that will appeal to many. Nice poise and restraint and a dry finish. Drinking well now, but should keep at least 6 or 7 years.

2005   Deep red, youthful colour. Lovely complex nose. Plum, fruitcake, some dark cherry, dusty cloves and other spices. Dense, full long palate. A big wine, held in check by fine structure. A bit like 2003, but more voluptuous and without the smoked meat aspect. Drink now or keep 10 years or more.

2006   Deep red, youthful colour. Red and blackcurrant nose – lots of thick Cabernet and Merlot skin on the nose. Some Merlot plumminess, creaminess and cinnamon essence too. Big, full mouthful, with nice richness together with a firm tannin spine. Tannins holding the wine back a bit and a little lacking in elegance, but may yet improve. Similar to 1998. Keep 2 or 3 years and drink over the following 10 years.

2007   Deep red, youthful colour. Lovely fruitcake red berry nose – very complex and appealing. Attractive herbal nuances (similar to 2001). Palate quite creamy red berry fruits, nutty and drinking rather easily. (Very different to 2006). Could have a bit more structure, but a nice long, dry finish. Ready to drink now, but should last around 10 years.

2008   Medium red colour. Lighter than most vintages. Forthcoming, quite opulent red fruit nose. Less spice and nuts than 2007 and more fruit forward. Our lightest, prettiest vintage. Soft and easy drinking with red berry fruit and tomato paste to the fore. A bit more Medoc like in flavour, though not structure. Drinking well now, but should keep 5 or 6 years.

2009   Medium deep red colour. Complex range of aromas from smoky blackberry, fruitcake, cinnamon, cigarbox and spice. Already well knit firm structure with dense, fine tannins and rich, complex fruit carrying through from beginning to end. Firm, long finish. Keep 2 or 3 years and drink over the following 10 or more years.

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