Excelsior 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – Wine Wednesday

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As you know, we try to make Wine Wednesday’s fun and bring you interesting-yet-affordable wines for $10 and under. Our assignment is often challenging; it isn’t always easy to find wine at the $10 and under price point and end up drinking a fair amount of wine to bring you 52 Wine Wednesdays a year. This week’s pick is a familiar varietal from a relatively unfamiliar region.

This week’s Wine Wednesday is a Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa. DOTW is located in Northern California near the heart of the United State’s Cabernet Sauvignon region, Napa Valley. So, understandably, we and the rest of the US drink a great deal of Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a nice familiarity to drinking Cabernet Sauvignon (we know we challenge you with our selections of Fianos and other weird varietals). But, it is hard to get a good Cabernet Sauvignon in the United States for $10 and under (not impossible but you have to put some effort into it). This week’s Cabernet Sauvignon from Excelsior Vineyards clocked in at the uber-expensive price of $5.99 at Costco. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical given the $5.99 price but it blew me away.

The story of South African wine reminds me a bit of the story of wine in America: a budding wine industry producing good wine that was felled by bad legislation. For any of our avid readers, you will know that this week was the initial showing of Ken Burn’s Prohibition on PBS and that we wrote an impassioned article about our dislike of Prohibition and the disastrous effect it had on the American wine, spirit and beer industries. While South Africa did not have prohibition, it instead implemented apartheid, which legalized and mandated the mistreatment of native Africans. In response to South Africa’s refusal to end apartheid, an almost universal economic ban on South Africa started in the 1960s. This ban wrecked havoc on the South Africa wine industry, which had a long history, dating back to the late 1600s.

In the twenty years since apartheid has ended, the South African wine industry has been clawing its way out of obscurity onto the international scene. It has long been popular in the UK and is now finding its way into the US. The Excelsior label is one of the more popular labels in the US and the De Wet family (the owners of the Excelsior label) have been making wine for five generations. The label on the bottle proudly displays horses as the De Wet’s other passion is breeding horses.

The Excelsior 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was a steal at $5.99 at Costco. Visually, the wine was a medium ruby color. On the nose, the wine was clean with a medium intensity of developing aromas of blackberry, cassis, black plum, vanilla, menthol, slight pencil shavings, vanilla, nutmeg and violets. On the plate, the wine had medium acidity, tannin, body, medium plus alcohol and medium plus intensity of black plums, blackberry, green bell pepper, pencil shavings, menthol, asparagus, vanilla and earth. Medium plus finish. The wine was a good wine with nice complexity and was more vegetal on the mouth than on the nose. Both the hubby and I gave it a thumbs-up.

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