South Africa has an affinity for wine and golf. So why not combine the best of both worlds? Vintner Jean Engelbrecht, who runs Rust en Vrede, one of South Africa's top wineries, is releasing the debut wine from his new joint venture with professional golfer Ernie Els, a fellow South African, later this year.
In a recent blind tasting, the wine scored 93 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, the highest rating yet given to a South African wine. The Engelbrecht-Els Ernie Els Stellenbosch 2000 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, made with grapes sourced from the Rust en Vrede estate in Stellenbosch, along with additional purchased fruit. Aged in 100 percent new French oak barrels for 18 months, the wine shows gorgeous, polished currant, cocoa, boysenberry and toast aromas and flavors, supported by a seamless texture.
The 2000 Engelbrecht-Els will retail for $60 per bottle, with 500 of the 1,000 cases produced coming to the United States. Plans are to steadily increase production over the next few years to approximately 15,000 cases annually.
Engelbrecht and Els have known each other since they were children, and Els' first date with his wife was on the Rust en Vrede estate.
"With all the wines we have shared together through the years, it became clear that Ernie's palate leaned towards Bordeaux-styled wines, so when we decided on this venture, I knew the wine had to be a classic Bordeaux blend including all 5 varietals," said Engelbrecht. "It had to be an extension of his personality."
Els--who has won 3 major golf championships and currently ranks third on the 2002 PGA Tour money list, with more than $3 million in prize money--tastes samples of the wine throughout its development, and is involved in the choice of the final blend.
The partnership of wine and golf is not new. South African professional golfer David Frost owns an eponymous winery in Paarl, and Australia's Greg Norman has given his name to a range of Australian wines made by Beringer Blass Wine Estates.
Check our recent ratings of Rust en Vrede wines.