Can you believe we are already up to the 6th installement of Lenn's Wine Blogging Wednesdays? And who better to host a WBW#6: South African Reds than our very own Jeanne of Cook Sister!, a South African herself.
Although I've drank plenty of good Pinotage in the past I could not locate my tasting notes in any of my wine journals. So, after a refresher on South Africa's wines regions and researching a few of my wine books I went shopping for something new, just for Jeanne.
The challenge was finding South African reds in my area that followed Jeanne's guidelines and did not have critters on the label. Thankfully, after hitting a couple stores and choosing between a few wine makers I could use, I found one bottle to take home with me to supplement something I already had at hand.
Just as expected, this particular wine was not meant to impress me. I'm afraid Leonetti and Northstar have forever spoiled me for Merlot and the only place I could think of for this juice was in a slow cooked Boeuf à la Bourguignonne with Kumquats and Persimmon that we had for dinner yesterday.
Normally, I go for a lush Bordeaux--or even a meaty and peppery Shiraz, but since the bottle was opened it had to be used up.
Sure, it was semi-quaffable for very little moolah ($10.99) but it just did not move me the way only a very few and far superior Merlots can do. It was thin, showing some chocolate and cherry flavors with a slightly hot and smoky backbone. No real finish.
This wine is a standard offering vintage after vintage at local wine departments and even though I am sure it is pretty popular with some it is just not something I would want to recommend if only because life is to short for average wine and there are so many, better wines out there to try, from South Africa and the rest of the world.
The 2003 Excelsior Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99), on the other hand, was much better and even though it is good enough to have on its own (this is the kind of wine to drink mid-week with beef or lamb based stews or even pasta) I know it would have made for a better dish if I had used it instead of the Merlot for the Bourguignonne.
This Cab shows well. It is easy to drink, with deep plum color, lots of fruit and cedary and lightly toasted oak notes. It felt silkier and fuller in the mouth than the Merlot, with a round palate, good balance and a subtle but pleasant finish.
Reading, drinking and writing about South African red wines has been an opportunity to do some collective education on the fascinating subject that is the South African wine industry and its wines. and it has priven to be both a motivation and incentive to seek and taste more South African reds (or their lovely Sauvignon Blancs) that sadly are still not very well known in the USA.
Hopefully, just as it happened with Australia, that will change around our shores, resulting in more press and shelf space at local wine purveyors for wines that even with over 3 centuries of wine making history are still full of promise and ready to be discovered by Western oenophiles.
Fleur du Cap Merlot 2001: A lively, ruby red Merlot with aromas of cherry and other berries, and a touch of chocolate and vanilla. On the palate, raspberry flavors mingle with vanilla and wood notes. It flows into a well-rounded, medium-full palate, and finishes smoothly with hints of fruit and wood. The ripe fruit makes the wine very drinkable now and the solid structure will allow the wine to age well over the next five years.
Excelsior Estate Cabernet 2003: Blackish plum in color. A medium-to-full bodied wine. Aromas of ripe blackcurrant and plummy fruit with a hint of mint. Toasty oak aromas and sweet fruit flavors are balanced by soft ripe tannins. Good structure with a nice, lengthy finish.