WORDS: RICHARD HOLMES IMAGES: SUPPLIED
Looking for a full-bodied red wine to pair with that long-awaited steak? Need a bottle with gravitas to impress a client over dinner? While single varietal wines offer character and individuality, a blended red wine is often a safer bet, as skilled winemakers balance the character traits from a clutch of noble varietals.
Perhaps the most famous of these is a “Bordeaux” blend, typically made up of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot. Occasionally you’ll find a splash of carménère too, but plantings in South Africa are tiny, so it’s rarely seen. To make a Bordeaux blend there are no hard and fast rules around how much of each cultivar to include, nor do all of them need to be used, but Bordeaux blends are usually led by cabernet sauvignon or merlot, with smaller quantities of the remaining varietals.
A perfect example of a classic Bordeaux blend is the Lady May 2014 from Glenelly estate on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, which pays tribute to the estate’s founder, esteemed Bordeaux winemaker Madame May de Lencquesaing. Dominated by cabernet sauvignon, it’s an elegant, complex blend with powerful fruit and rich tannins. No wonder it bagged five stars in the latest Platter’s Guide.
Another fine example comes from Botanica in Stellenbosch’s Devon Valley, which topped the scoring in Wine Magazine’s 2019 Cape Bordeaux Red Blend Report with their flagship Arboretum. Made from the best barrels of each vintage, this blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot balances dark fruits on the nose with a rich, lingering palate. Also in the top 10 of the WineMag report was the Boet Erasmus from Vrede en Lust. Named in honour of owners Dana and Etienne Buys’ maternal grandfather, it’s a Bordeaux blend made in a new-world style, using four of the five classic Bordeaux cultivars. Expect bright fruit on the nose, firm tannins and good acidity.
It’s a wine made to be enjoyed around five years after vintage, which means you should light the braai fires and get your finest rib-eye ready for the grill.