INSIDER'S PICK: 2013 GLENELLY ESTATE RESERVE RED STELLENBOSCH (Vinous 91pts) $24.99
South Africa has a long and complicated history with Europe and the rest of the world over the centuries of colonialism. The French have a strong influence on the history of wine industry here, not surprisingly, and has been a major factor in the country's reemergence since the fall of apartheid in the early 1990s. May de Lencquesaing was the matriarch of the esteemed wine chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, with family roots that traced back to the 1780 when her ancestor was appointed 'royal wine broker' for South Africa. In the late 1990s she set out to reconnect with those past ties by purchasing an estate in the Stellenbosch wine region, the oldest established wine area in South Africa near the port city of Cape Town. The property Glenelly sits on what was part of the original Ida's Valley farm ceded over to a French Huguenot family in 1682, which had vineyards through much of its history but in more recent time had been converted to solely fruit trees. Since taking over the winery has built itself up with a Bordeaux mindset as well as a bit of New World technology and sensibility, becoming one of the more impressive 'newer' producers in the country.
Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and dominated by the other traditional Bordeaux varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), this does have a healthy splash of Syrah in the blend, which have been a common aspect of the reds in this part of the world. What's uncommon here is the quality and intensity this wine is bringing for the money, drinking and smelling like a young Bordeaux that could bring twice the price. Deep in color but showing the slightest bit of color change at the edges from a bit of needed time in the bottle before release, the aromas are very Old School Bordeaux with lots of dark currant, black pepper, coffee roast, cedar and spice. As it opens up there may be a little more warmth of fruit and sweetness of spice to indicate it isn't French in origin, but it's pretty darn close. The texture in the mouth is equally big and bold, but with tannins that are surprisingly fine and polished, most likely thanks to the added Syrah and the bit of extra time cellaring as well. It makes for a wine that is fairly ready to drink right now, though it does have the potential to evolve much more if you wanted to. Either way there is lots of value here for Old World and New World fans alike.
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