I’m including all the Bordeaux blends I can think of here. While it may be difficult to compare a Meritage with Bordeaux and then Bordeaux to a Taglio Bordolese or Cape Blend, I can’t put together a top 10 list of Cape Blends, so this is the road I’m taking.
One other point, I’m not a stickler when it comes to these things. If a bit of Syrah or Barbera ends up in one of my choices, please forgive me. I have a very liberal idea of what this group of wines should consist of, you might even call it antique considering what passed for Bordeaux in the past!
Without further ado, my top 10 favorite Bordeaux influenced blends. You saw what I did there, right?
Photo courtesy geishaboy500 via Flickr/CC
10. Meerlust Rubicon
This may seem to be an odd place to start this list, but I have somehow developed a special relationship with South African Bordeaux blends and it all began with a bottle of Meerlust Rubicon from the mid 1980s.
Rubicon is a talisman of sorts, a wine that straddled the difficulties that the South African wine industry has endured while becoming symbolic of the continuity and connection the modern wine industry has with its past. It’s a wine that is ripe, leafy, fun and bright in the mouth with the savory, earthy nuance that has become South Africa’s calling card.
9. De Toren Fusion V
De Toren is a relatively young operation that set out with a very narrow goal in mind, to produce the best Bordeaux blend in South Africa. In the pursuit of this dream, the owners made the choice to produce only one wine at first, adding a second several years later to help them achieve their goal.
The results speak for themselves. De Toren’s Fusion V, five for the number of grape varieties used in the blend, is a tremendously exciting wine to taste. The blend of varieties seems to be knit together very well, though in the mouth it is as if each variety retains its distinctive character, releasing it slowly and sequentially allowing you to enjoy a wine that continues to evolve in the mouth. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the texture of De Toren’s wine: bright, almost piquant at times, though always seamless.
8. Vergelegen Red
This may be the most highly acclaimed red wine producer in all of South Africa. With two wines vying for attention, the elusive V and the somewhat easier to track down Red, I had to sneak Vergelegen in. My list is looking a little South African heavy, but I guess the style, smoky and a bit green, really appeals to my palate!
Vergelegen Red is a rich, fairly powerful wine, not overtly fruity yet not lacking in blackberry and black currant flavors. It is a wine graced with mineral, herbal and of course smoky nuances, and one I never tire of drinking.
7. Ramey Claret
David Ramey is one of California’s legendary winemakers, responsible for a myriad of success stories including his own. His Ramey wines are sought after, particularly the single vineyard Cabernets and Chardonnays, which leaves some of his wine overlooked, like the Claret blend.
A Cabernet-based wine, Claret sees some Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and a bit of Syrah. The name may be a touch misleading, as this really is a Cab, but it does indeed drink more like a blend with softness and spice accenting the rich berry fruit. This is a wine that celebrates its exuberance, quietly.
6. Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon FKA Santa Cruz Mountains
This wine used to be known as Ridge Vineyard’s Santa Cruz Mountain bottling and it was a bit of an enigma, being a second wine to Ridge’s flagship Monte Bello bottling. The varietal composition of the SCM has varied from a bare majority of Cabernet to almost entirely Cabernet, so the wine is ever-changing, though the quality is not. This new iteration of the wine is now labeled as a Cabernet Sauvignon, so perhaps some consistency is on the way. In all truth, I hope not too much.
This has been a lovely Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernet. It is leanish at times in its youth with plenty of oak, but given 5-8 years from the vintage, this wine really knits together well and expresses the breezy elegance of its appellation. I’m a bit nostalgic about this wine* and perhaps this is not the right place to list it, so bear with me.
* vintages prior to 2009