One didn’t drink South African wines during Aparthied. When that monstrous era ended, the drinks from the southern tip of the vast African continent rushed to market.

The legendary sweeties of Constantia certainly lived up their reputation, and there were decent Bordeaux-styled wines at a fair price. But there was also a lot of baked crap, and that regrettable Freekenstein monster of fruit esters, Pinotage. We haven’t tried them in a dog’s age so …

Glen Carlou Grande Classique  (NLC $24.73)

A pleasant surprise here. The complete lot of Bordeaux grapes in this one Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet France, Petit Verdot. It’s got a fresh mint thing, some grassiness and herbal elements all against a touch of the blue cheesy note you find in some St. Emilion wines.

The drift to elegance is the shocker, it’s in no way overblown even at 14.5% alcohol.  The use of oak barrels was judicious. It’s not terribly complex and finishes a little short but certainly worth every penny. If we had slurped it blind, we would have taken it for a food friendly Californian of the newer school.

The Leeuwinkuil Chenin Blanc (NLC $16.62)

The white specialty of South Africa has been, for years, Chenin Blanc or, as it was called in Afrikaans, “Steen.” The Leeuwinkuil Chenin Blanc is another happy discovery. It’s clean and very dry, like biting into a tart, slightly underripe apple.  There is a chalky mineral character. The nose hints at tropical fruit which isn’t really on the palate. Served almost cold, it is mouth cleansing and slaking.  Again nothing complex, but nothing “factory” about it. Super bargain.