2019 Rustenberg Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Alcohol 14%, Residual Sugar 3 g/l) LCBO Vintages $19.95 (750ml bottle)

I’ve always found that finding a decent, medium-full-bodied Cabernet with a healthy bit of well-managed oak support is a real challenge when one gets into the sub-$20 category. Thankfully, one can find this perennial favourite of mine all across the province throughout much of the year. 

It’s certainly a crowd pleaser, but more importantly for me, it happens to fit my ideal of what an accessible South African Cabernet Sauvignon should be, and at a price point that doesn’t make me wince.

With a winemaking history stretching way back to 1682, it honestly pains me to refer to Rustenberg’s wines as being “New World”. After all this time producing wines from the Stellenbosch region, it should come as no real surprise that they know what they are doing, and this stalwart of the LCBO’s South African offerings is truly testament to this.

While the 2019 vintage was a challenge for Rustenberg, especially with later-ripening varieties like Cabernet, the resultant wines have turned out to be quite exquisite and expressive, and in the case of this specific bottling, more than punches above its weight.

It’s unashamedly Stellenbosch, exhibiting a thoroughly earthy blackcurrant/dark plum aromatic profile with touches of wet tobacco leaf, iodine, oak spice, mushroomy duxelles, and black liquorice. The dark fruit core is, for me, benchmark Stellenbosch; one could get seriously lost in all that gorgeously ripe fruit.

The palate is soft and plush on the attack (remember I said it was a crowd pleaser?) but leads to firm and muscular but decidedly fine-grained tannins on the back palate. The earthiness of the nose continues throughout the middle and tail of the wine, culminating in a thoroughly rewarding finish.

With all that structure and complexity, it would be a pity not to pair it with some food. I’m going to attempt a classic Beef Wellington at the weekend and plan to open another bottle to accompany that.

This meaty wine is really just in its relative youth and will only improve over the next 15-20 years. How many sub-$20 reds can one say that about? Saying that, it’s damn fine wine to be drinking right now, so don’t be shy about it and grab yourself a bottle.

(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)


Rustenberg are represented in Ontario by Woodman Wines And Spirits.

Woodman Wine & Spirits is a Good Food Fighter.

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