Wine Review: 2014 Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 Excelsior Syrah

Reviewer’s Note: Samples of the wine discussed here were provided to me for reviewing purposes at no cost.

Image: Anthony Beal /
Image: Anthony Beal /

2014 Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon

Here, South African winery Excelsior gives us an expressive dry red wine that’s 90% Cabernet Sauvignon/10% Petite Verdot and not shy about wanting to make friends. Pouring reveals a rich garnet color with a thin, clear edge, and a bouquet that calls to mind that talkative cocktail party attendee who bounds right up to introduce himself to you before your host can do so. Its extroverted aromatics serve up essences of cherry jam, ripened plum, and oak, while quietly dropping hints of passion fruit and mint to be discovered seconds later. When tasted, this wine unpacks vibrant notes of tart plum, black currant, and blackberry flavors that suggest drinking after dark. Tight tannins and substantial acidity notwithstanding, it remains creamy on the palate and has a finish that endures, making for an approachable sip that easily invites the pouring of a second glass.

This is a youthful, full-bodied wine to settle into at the end of an evening that involved dinner and dancing, when the party returns home to laugh and play music until the sun comes up. No one would blame you for uncorking a bottle of this at your next after-the-clubs gathering, however, a year or two of cellaring could really smooth out its tannins and give them a polish. A roasted cut of lamb, a dish of braised beef or roasted duck, or pasta entrée served with mushrooms and roasted Fall vegetables would all make excellent dance partners for this wine.

Image: Anthony Beal /
Image: Anthony Beal /

2013 Excelsior Syrah

This dry South African red is a 85% Syrah/15% Petite Verdot pour with dark, brooding garnet hues that border on purple. Its subdued nose gives up intimations of fresh, sliced plums strewn across stones wet with rain along the lower rim of the wine glass. Near the upper rim await juicy blackberries and dried plums accompanied by shy violet petals and a slightly more assertive perfume of new cinnamon sticks and fleeting anise. This wine boasts a more introverted bouquet than the Cabernet described above, with flavors that keep true to what one smells, so dark berry and plum attributes assert themselves on the tongue, recalling fresh fruit slices served upon a granite slab, with black licorice and a sprinkling of baking spice to lend them dimension.

Pleasantly tannic with fullness of body and acidity enough to balance the fruitier taste subtleties, this wine embodies the archetypal strong, silent type; a reserved stranger whose confidence one must earn before he will open up fully to share all his secrets. This is a wine of few words, but one to listen closely to when it does speak. A boldness of flavor that contrasts at once with that sense of quiet introspection, along with a moderate-to-long finish that calls sweetness and spice back to the stage for final bows, contributes to a well-rounded wine that reps ably for full-bodied, warm climate Syrah. Its taste evokes watching a thunderstorm fill the sky with rain beyond a high-rise window, as bass-laden rainy day playlist grooves bump in the background. This is a wine well-suited to being drunk with dishes led by braised or slow-cooked meats and game, grilled or barbecued fare like ribs and chops, or sausages and charcuterie.

Learn more about Excelsior Wine Estate at

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