While I am by no means a proponent of sticking to the strict ethos of winter reds and summer white wines, there can be no denying that on a chilly winter’s evening few glasses can be enjoyed more thoroughly than a Bordeaux varietal or blend from Stellenbosch.This list isn’t about stickers, stars or ratings, rather it’s a list of five fabulous wines I’ve had the privilege of tasting recently, wines that I think you should try too.
Glenelly Lady May 2015
Considered a golden vintage for SA wine, the 2015 Lady May is no exception. It is a breathtakingly exquisite expression of not only Glenelly’s flagship Bordeaux blend but those of Stellenbosch too. The Cabernet Sauvignon-led blend is named in honour of the estate’s now nonagenarian owner May-Eliane de Lencquesaing — previous owner of Bordeaux’s Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, and crafted by the acclaimed winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain. Notes of red fruit and berries mingle with a graphitic minerality and a glorious salinity together with linear polished tannins and a tight, long finish. A truly remarkable wine — it’s big yet masterfully restrained — Lady May is the epitome of class and finesse. It is my belief that we have but seen only a glimpse of what this wine is still to offer.
Taaibosch Crescendo 2018
One of the most anticipated releases of the year arrived in the form of the Taaibosch Crescendo 2018. The Cabernet Franc-driven Bordeaux blend from the acclaimed Stellenbosch farm previously known as Cordoba. The first vintage under new ownership — a collaborative effort between the Oddo family, Bertrand Otto and winemaker Schalk-Willem Joubert (the latter two previously of Rupert and Rothschild) — the wine is truly magnificent in its resurrection. Joubert and assistant winemaker Petri Venter, masterfully reflecting the Helderberg terroir as they guide the wine to bottle. It is elegant and complex, with a textured mouthfeel reminiscent of those of Bordeaux while still being so quintessentially a wine of Stellenbosch — stunning purity of fruit, fine tannins and fantastic tension leading to a glorious lingering finish. Showing beautifully now but has years ahead of it.
Boschendal Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
The latest addition to Boschendal’s veritable portfolio takes shape in a single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon.Sourced from Stellenbosch, the wine sits more than comfortably within the farm’s Appellation series- focusing on site-specific wines — offering a distinct and impressive expression of the grape for which the region has become renowned. It’s clever and considered winemaking by Boschendal cellarmaster and red winemaker Jacques Viljoen, which has resulted in a wine that while by no means delicate has superb poise. Fruit forward, notes of ripe plum, dark cherries and confected berry contrast against the more subtle notes of pencil shavings and spice complimented by chalky tannins, good acid and a rich and textured mouthfeel.
Meerlust Red 2019
The Stellenbosch wine estate is so committed to meeting the exacting standards expected from their flagship Rubicon Bordeaux blend, that when certain vintages don’t meet their self-imposed quality they declassify the wine and release Meerlust Red. Such was the case in 2019 when a combination of environmental factors resulted in slightly lower alcohol levels and a stylistically lighter wine (lacking the intensity required for Rubicon) and so the first vintage of Meerlust Red since 2011 was released.Make no mistake though, it’s a cracking wine in and of itself. The lighter style paired with a greater percentage of merlot contributes a softer and more approachable quality to the blend in its youth. With a palate of fresh red fruit, a lovely minerality and elegant oak influences of vanilla and dark chocolate together with great balance and gentle tannins — the result is a wine that tastes like “more, please”.
Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
A vintage characterised by both heat and drought looks to be a stand out for Stellenbosch Cabernet and Waterford’s is no exception. The dominant variety grown on the estate, its covetable position on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain and its maritime influence consistently result in a superb expression of the grape.Wonderful purity of fruit, notes of blackberry, cassis & black plum mingle with pencil lead, tobacco, aniseed spice and a savoury earthiness, complimented by well-textured tannins, a balancing acidity and long finish. A wine that is beautiful now but will develop magnificently in years to come.