We’ve been aware of Neil Ellis since we first started investigating the wines of South Africa in the early ’90s, but we’ve actually had precious little experience with his products over the years. It was during our adventures with the varieties of the Sauvignon experience back in 2000 that we tried the only selection we’ve ever reported on (it was quite good, by the way), and then came another long drought. Happily, our friends at Vineyard Brands, Inc. rectified that oversight on our part by sending us two samples for review. It’s been 10 years and 11 vintages since we enjoyed that 1998 Neil Ellis Sauvignon Blanc, and based on this 2009 model, we may have missed some pretty fine stuff in the interim. Also included in the package was an impressive late model Cabernet Sauvignon. Here are our impressions.
2009 Neil Ellis Sauvignon Blanc Groenekloof, 13.5% alc., $18.00 SRP: This excellent Sauvignon shows clean, medium color, and is at once rich, intense and aggressive without pushing it too far. Flavors and aromas are reminiscent of grapefruit, gooseberry, boxwood, pine and mineral, but never stray into the litter box, if you get my meaning, if you catch my drift. Medium-to-medium-full bodied, with zesty acids and very good length; the intensity combined with the stony minerality (more than you find in most New Zealand SBs, and in that regard, more akin to its Loire Valley cousins) really grabs me. This is an excellent wine, one of the best Sauvignons we’ve had from anywhere in quite some time, and it should have at least a few years worth of development ahead of it. According to the VB tech sheet, “The juice was handled reductively and left to settle for 3 days after which it was racked and inoculated to ferment at low temperatures. Left on the lees for 3 months before blending and bottling.” Find this wine
2006 Neil Ellis Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch, 14% alc., $23.00 SRP: Clean dark color, with a stingy nose that initially only hints at the straightforward black currant and blackberry flavors underscored with subtle earth and a hint of creamy oak. Full bodied, well-structured and fairly long on the finish, with good Cabernet character and presence. Air really transforms this from a somewhat one-dimensional red to one that offers more and more charm as it opens, so give it an hour in a decanter to enjoy it at its best now, or better yet, give it three to five years in the cellar to really let it develop. Solid Cabernet, this. 18 months in French oak, 40% new. Find this wine
Based on these two fine specimens, we’re thinking that we need to be drinking more of these at Gang Central. Bravo Neil Ellis!
Reporting from Day-twah,