Neil Ellis is one of the pioneers of modern South African wine. Starting out as a negociant in the 1980s, he progressed to making his own wine, which now includes several labels reviewed here—Neil Ellis Premium Range, Sincerely, and Left Bank. He pioneered producing Sauvignon Blanc from the now chic Groenekloof and Elgin areas. He purchases most of his grapes under long-term contracts with growers in selected regions of the Cape—Groenekloof (Darling), Jonkershoek (Stellenbosch), Piekenierskloof (Olifants River), and Elgin. Neil’s son Warren, with whom we tasted Neil Ellis wines during our South Africa trip a few months ago, now has lead winemaking responsibilities. He’s one of the winemakers we showcased in our article on Young South African Winemakers. We review the new releases imported to the US in this article. For reviews of other wines of Neil Ellis and on the diverse growing regions of South Africa, consult our Report # 30 The Wines of South Africa and our Special Report on South African Value Wines Under $20.
The importer of Neil Ellis wines is Vineyard Brands of Birmingham, AL
Neil Ellis Premium Range
Neil Ellis 2010 Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc Darling ($18) 90+ A powerful perfume erupts from this wine with herbaceous and passion fruit scents. The palate is similar generous in its flavors, round and full on the palate with lingering ripe grapefruit, passion fruit and white pepper notes. Made from low-yielding, dry farmed 30 year old bush vines on decomposed granite and clay hills running along the West Coast of the Cape.
Neil Ellis 2009 Chardonnay Stellenbosch ($20) 90 Coaxing aromas of fire camp smoke and light tropical fruit give way to a superbly balanced palate showing bright tropical fruit, toasted almonds and hazelnuts, and wet river stone, all coming together in a long, very flavorful finish. Whole bunch pressed and barrel fermented, followed by nine months of aging in half new, half used oak with weekly battonage. Very well made.
Neil Ellis 2009 Shiraz Elgin ($20) 89+ The premium Shiraz is a serious wine with notes of cassis, smoke and black raspberry on the nose. It’s round on the palate with good depth, finely grained tannins and delicious flavors of crème de mure sauvage. Not a hugely complex wine, but delicious and approachable now. Aged 14 months in 500 lt. barrels.
Neil Ellis 2010 Sincerely Shiraz Western Cape ($14) 88 The Sincerely Shiraz has a meaty, dark red fruit aroma with a touch of wild herbs. This is a straightforward, flavorful and fruity red wine of medium weight, some flavor complexity, and quite dry on the mid-palate. The dry tannins make it a good food wine. Matured 9 months in used oak barriques.
Neil Ellis 2010 Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape ($14) 88 The Sincerely is a refreshing, easy drinking Sauvignon Blanc showing good varietal character of grapefruit citrus and a bit of green beans on the nose. The palate reveals ripe fruit and a round mouth feel with bracing acidity. Excellent value. A vineyard blend from Groenekloof, Stellenbosch, and Elgin.
Neil Ellis 2010 The Left Bank Western Cape ($15) 88+ The Left Bank is a medium bodied, flavorful wine of considerably greater complexity than one has a right to expect at the price. It shows rich red fruit and hints of smoke and cedar on the nose with a well balanced palate of dark red plum with earth and savory herb notes, finishing with suave tannins. A blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Shiraz, and 26% Merlot.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler