Resolving the R&L wine business

Monday, 16 February, 2004
Melvyn Minnaar
Meerlust and Allée Bleue it is
They have a 5-year ancient age difference, but it was a single letter that really split them – close to a bitter battle. In the end, the dignity of breed, heritage and shared commitment seemed to have held sway, and so the problem was amicably solved.

Meerlust Estate will remain just that on the highly sought-after label, while Meerrust will simply become (widely, the owners believe) known as Allée Bleue.

This week the owners of Meerrust in Groot Drakenstein (established in 1687, with a 19th-century Herbert Baker manor house) agreed not to use the farm’s original name on its products. (The German Dauphin ‘furniture’ family is developing a number of lifestyle products here, as well as a wellness hotel.)

Last year Hannes Myburgh complained officially that that ‘R’ of their name was causing problems with his ‘L’. The case went to lawyers and a court case was looming over trademarks.

Meerlust (established in 1683, with an historic national monument homestead) said that the similarity of the two names created confusion with business correspondence, deliveries and invoices, and even winelovers were baffled. Hannes, the 8th generation Myburgh to own the farm, suggested Meerrust was taking advantage of his estate’s reputation for fine wine, established over decades.

Initially the Dauphins, who bought Meerrust in 1999, indicated that they would defend the case. But now they’ve settled and Judge RG Comrie made the agreement a court order.

Meerrust will only use the name Allée Bleue on its wine (its pinotage has already made its mark) and other products.

Meerlust will continue to use its famous label, but the wine inside the bottles, released in a couple of year’s time, will have had a different person in charge of making the sought-after stuff. The estate’s famous cellar master, Giorgio dalla Cia, retired last year and young winemaker Chris Williams is handling his first vintage as we speak. He is sure to get his L’s and R’s right.