South African reds, including a trio from Ernie Els


Hartenberg Merlot 2007, Stellenbosch (£17.50 Waitrose, D Byrne, Lea & Sandeman, Noel Young, The Vineyard, Cooden Cellars)
There’s some juicy blackberry and blackcurrant flesh, but more dominant is the classic South African baked-on berries and woodsmoke, OK but lacks bounce and freshness. B-

Engelbrecht Els Proprietor’s Blend 2007, Stellenbosch (£20.99-£21.99 The Winehouse, sawinesonline.co.uk, Dunells, Lea & Sandeman, Lewis & Cooper, Great Grog, Hedley Wright)
Again a slightly charred character here, but there’s also some freshness and fragrant leafy character. Overall it’s rich and warm-hearted with blueberry, blackberry and plum fruit and a tar-like finish, but it’s good rather than great, focussing on intensity at the expense of complexity. B

Ernie Els 2005, Stellenbosch (£40-£45 sawinesonline.co.uk, Lea & Sandeman, Great Grog, Hedley Wright, Hercules Wine Warehouse, Wine Direct)
A confident, rounded, complete blend. There’s a touch of VA but it’s in balance with the plush flavours of blackcurrant, blackberry and plum, and side notes of tar, cedar and fresh tobacco. Still very youthful and the 15+% alcohol doesn’t intrude too much, but I just wish they’d picked it earlier and kept more freshness. S

Guardian Peak Lapa Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Stellenbosch (£16.95-£17.95 Waitrose, D Byrne, Lea & Sandeman, Noel Young, The Vineyard, Cooden Cellars)
Another confident youngster, jumping out of the glass to show off its fresh blackcurrant flavours framed with toasty oak, and hints of newly turned earth and chocolate. But while it can’t be faulted for intensity and purity of Cabernet flavour, it’s just a little monochromatic. S-


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