Wine South Africa
Plaisir de Merle Wine Estate (Image supplied)
  • Plaisir de Merle estate, at the foot of Simonsberg Mountain, achieved distinctions in the latest Platter's Guide.
  • Two of its wines, a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2016 Cape Bordeaux Red Blend, earned prestigious five-star ratings.
  • But celebrations at Plaisir de Merle were cut short, when, the very next day after the award's announcement, thieves stole 1km of electrical cable from the estate.
  • It cost the new owners R470,000 to replace.
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Two wines produced by Plaisir de Merle estate, situated between Paarl and Franschhoek, received five-star ratings from the prestigious John Platter guide on Monday 15 November. The next day, it lost 1km of electric cabling to thieves, which cost R470,000 to replace.

Platter's has been chronicling, tasting, rating, and ranking South African wines for more than 40 years. Platter's Guide is considered the most up-to-date and authoritative guide on South African wines, farms, and estates, with bottles wearing its prestigious red seal of approval with pride.

The 42nd edition of the Platter's Guide features more than 8,000 locally produced wines. Just 234 wines achieved 95 points or more on the 100-point rating scale in the 2022 edition. These wines are afforded Platter's highest distinction: a five-star rating, with each bottle described as "Superlative, a South African classic".

The 2018 Plaisir Cabernet Sauvignon and 2016 Grand Plaisir Cape Bordeaux Red Blend were both awarded five-star ratings, as announced by Platter's on Monday 15 November.

But celebration of this coveted award at Plaisir de Merle, an estate first established at the foot of Simonsberg Mountain in 1693, was short-lived.

On Tuesday night, or possibly early Wednesday morning, thieves used a chainsaw to fell a timber pole supporting electrical cables. A kilometre of copper cabling was stolen.

"The replacement cost of the cable with labour was R470,000 [excluding VAT]," Rose Jordaan, co-owner of Plaisir de Merle Wine Estate, told Business Insider South Africa.

"The cost of work hours without power, hiring generators to continue operating in certain areas on the farm, while other like workshops stop operating altogether, [are] undocumented costs."

Rose, who, together with her husband, Michael, only recently purchased Plaisir de Merle wine estate from Distell in April, confirmed two more incidents of cable theft in the week that followed.

It took four days to replace the stolen cable, which, because of widespread theft in the Western Cape, had be transported down from Johannesburg, explained Jordaan. The scourge of copper cable theft costs the South African economy almost R200 billion, according to the country's main state-owned enterprises.

Added to the recent bout of prolonged load shedding, following a period of lockdown regulations which stifled wine sales and estate tours, the sector, which supports 80,000 jobs at farm and winery level, has had a gruelling year.

Plaisir de Merle employs 128 people and provides power to more than 50 families living on the estate. The money spent on replacing stolen copper cables should be used to maintain and grow a viable business, said Jordaan.

Despite being dealt consecutive blows to their hefty investment in Plaisir de Merle – the cable theft just being the most recent example – Jordaan remains optimistic about South Africa and the wine industry.

"Michael and I both work extremely hard and this we do for our children and our country's future, but it is exhausting and at times my personal energy wanes as the blatant unchecked and unpunished criminality sets us back time and time again," said Jordaan.

"We love South Africa and our people. Both Michael and I are hugely optimistic about helping to solve SA's many problems and about its positive future if we take 'the high road'.. the 'low road' is too ghastly to contemplate."

"We are South Africans... we have grit, and we will persevere because this great country is worth it."

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