Two Bordeaux-style red blends from South Africa stand out for their elegance and finesse at a time when many wine drinkers are looking for good-value alternatives to France and California. We’re talking about cabernet sauvignon and other red grapes that are commonly known as Bordeaux varieties. The first wine is a $20 bargain from the Paarl area that considerably exceeded my expectations. The label on Glen Carlou’s 2008 Grand Classique reads like a who’s who of Bordeaux grapes – cabernet sauvignon 52 percent, malbec 16 percent, merlot 14 percent, petit verdot 13 percent and cabernet franc five percent. This is a bright and opulent wine with good fruit concentration supported by a firm tannic structure. It’s easy to drink yet complex, with tastes of blueberry, cherry, black cherry and cranberry and notes of mocha and milk chocolate. Excellent for a variety of meats and fowl. Alcohol is restrained at 14 percent. Imported by The Hess Collection New World Wines, Napa, California.
The second wine is Rustenberg’s 2006 “John X. Merriman” from the Stellenbosch area. I don’t know if it’s the vintage, but I enjoyed this wine more than I had in previous years. For one thing I found the fruit riper, and the oak influence was more subtle. The blend includes the same grapes as the Glen Carlou but the proportions are quite different – cabernet sauvignon 45 percent, merlot 38 percent, petit verdot 13 percent and very small amounts of cabernet franc and malbec. This wine, with a price of $25 or so, is fairly big (14.5 percent alcohol) but well balanced and almost demands a grilled steak with its firm tannins, herbs, blackberry and vanilla notes. It’s enjoyable now but will benefit from a few years or so in the cellar. Imported by Cape Classics, New York. Wines received as press samples.