This South African beauty sports smoky spice and dried herbs on the nose. It's a full-bodied red with sweet blackberry fruit flavors, and licorice carried on a smoke-tinged palate of tremendous depth. The structure has a meaty, muscular edge, but the tannins are velvety smooth and impressively polished.
Pumpkin pie spice, plum, black cherry, vanilla and cocoa.
Left Bank wines are a project of Neil Ellis, a pioneer in revitalizing the South African wine industry and one of its most respected veterans. Having helped solidify the country's reputation for turning out stellar Sauvignon Blanc, Ellis is again leading the way with this berry-rich red, which toes the line between juiciness and serious tannic structure. For many years, South African winemakers relied on Pinotage (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault) as their mainstay red grape. Now they are embracing international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (or Shiraz) and Merlot--the three that Ellis blends here. He has a gift for knowing which varietals will grow best in a given vineyard and for blending wines to create impressive balance and depth. For this 2008 cuvée, Ellis sourced grapes from cooler vineyards in Stellenbosch, the sheltered coastal wine region at the foot of the Cape Fold mountain range, as well as from warmer areas farther inland in the Western Cape. The result is a wine that combines ripe fruit flavors and tannins with a touch of cooling acidity, balancing the powerful structure of Syrah and Cabernet with Merlot's plump fruit flavor.
With its balance of bold flavors and ripe, silky fruit, The Left Bank is an excellent dinner-party wine. Its intensity will please fans of big Cabernets, while its smooth tannins make the wine a more versatile partner to food than many reds. Tender cuts of beef, such as a center-cut loin, will echo The Left Bank's velvety texture, although most beef and lamb dishes will harmonize nicely with the wine's structure. While Argentinean Malbecs are great with my Grilled Gaucho Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, I think it's also a good match for The Left Bank.
Most of the spectacular Jonkershoek Valley is a Nature Reserve, which includes the smaller Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve, near the town of Stellenbosch in the south-western Cape. After a couple of glasses of the Left Bank, try pronouncing Jonkershoek, Assegaaibosch and Stellenbosch in a South African accent!