{wine} Excelsior’s Reserve Range: about horses, seasons and courage

The stories behind Excelsior Wine Estate‘s Reserve Range reminded me that no matter the season – a long, cold winter will always be followed by the new beginnings of spring.


As we head into the new and warmer beginnings of spring, a figurative awakening starts to happen in our wintery core. We sweep our hypothetical doorsteps, making way for new opportunities to cross the threshold. We throw open the windows of our souls, looking out for abundant growth, for shiny new adventures and for days that come alive with learning and reflection.

There’ s just something about a new start that appeals to our innermost beings. It’s as if the light of the seasonal sun offers a chance at redemption, somehow – a chance to undo and reinvent after the dark of winter. Having said that, it’s only on the paved path of the past that we can build our bright beginnings. 

I recently received a beautiful care package from Excelsior Wine Estate, which reminded me of the importance of starting fresh, and that there is always, always sun after the clouds. It also served as a timely reminder to take care of oneself, and to build moments for self-love into our daily routines.

I was absolutely delighted to be gifted with a set of their Reserve Range wines, beautifully enveloped in black and gold labels. I also unpacked a leather-bound gratitude journal, aromatic bath salts and a handful of white stinkwood seeds to sow when spring finally arrives. 

I spend a lot of time in my garden, pottering about and nurturing my growing collection. One of the most satisfying things in this world is to watch a plant slowly unfurl that first new leaf when you thought all that was left was dry fronds. It felt right to showcase these spectacular Excelsior Reserve wines in my potting station, as The Tall Hedonist and I planted seeds and dreams for tomorrow. All but the Norah Chardonnay, which formed the basis of a long overdue self-care afternoon, along with a pile of my favourite poetry books.


Excelsior Wine Estate has been in the de Wet family since 1859 and has a long history of producing good quality wine. The family philosophy is that good wine starts in the vineyards – the wine maker can only succeed with the best ingredients to work with. 

Excelsior’s rich history and tradition of winemaking has been carried over from generation to generation and it is through their magnificent wines that the De Wet’s family legacy lives on (press release).

Excelsior Reserve Range

Their reserve range pays tribute to a few great souls.  One being the owners’ sister, Christine Norah-Anne De Wet, a top academic and athletic achiever who overcame great hurdles throughout her life and fought valiantly before succumbing to cancer in 2018. Also to three enigmatic race horses that formed a part of the prestigious Excelsior stud over the years.

Norah Chardonnay 2019

The vintage pays homage to Christine Norah-Ann de Wet.

Tasting notes: Delights with hints of lemon, orange and pineapple and vanilla on the nose. The palate is rich and ripe with a pleasant sweet-and-sour character.
In the vineyard:   100% Chardonnay

In the cellar:  Matured for nine months in older French oak
Cellar door price: Excelsior Reserve Wines (R170) are available online at www.excelsior.co.za

The Little Hedonist‘s food pairing suggestion: I felt a certain affinity to this bottle, being a Chardonnay lover to start with. I was also humbled by the legacy left by Norah, and the fitting tribute the family gave her in the shape of this barrel-aged Chardonnay. I paired it with a lemon and granadilla tart, made with fresh fruits and citrus, deliciously placed on a buttery biscuit base. 

I would also love to see the Norah Chardonnay paired with a chicken pot pie, filled with creamy leeks and chunks of roasted chicken.  I think it would also pair beautifully with a selection of bold seafoods and fish, such as grilled Atlantic bonito, swordfish steaks, lemony sole or even pan-fried scallops. A wine you can enjoy in solitude, or in celebration.

Evanthius Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

This Cabernet Sauvignon pays homage to Evanthuis, a Hackney horse that was imported by Excelsior in 1913.

Tasting notes: Full-bodied with aromas of blackcurrants, chocolate and cedar. The wine has rich, but soft tannins and a long finish.
In the vineyard:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the oldest vines on the farm. They were planted in 1988 in the best calcareous soils.

In the cellar:  20 months of ageing in small oak barrels of which 50% were new
Cellar door price: Excelsior Reserve Wines (R170) are available online at www.excelsior.co.za
Awards and accolades: Double Gold Michaelangelo 2019

The Little Hedonist‘s food pairing suggestion:  A classic food-loving wine, we all know red meat and a Cabernet Sauvignon are best friends. I would pair this full-bodied beauty with Karoo lamb or a cut of lean venison. Also great in sauces and reductions, it lends a certain softness and roundness to meat dishes.

San Louis Shiraz 2018

Another tribute to a race horse legend, San Louis is the perfect example of perseverance and new beginnings. In 1979 San Louis fell ill and teetered on the brink of death. Seven months later he had recovered completely. Two years later, San Louis won the 1600m Guineas horse race, one of South Africa’s most prestigious races.

Tasting notes: Explosive nose of chocolate, espresso, fruitcake, and sweet oak spice. The palate is rich and very soft, with ripe flavours of black cherries and a long rich aftertaste.
In the vineyard:   100% Shiraz

In the cellar:  Aged in 30% new American oak barrels for 18 months. Only 300 cases produced.
Cellar door price: Excelsior  Reserve Wines (R170) are available online at www.excelsior.co.za

The Little Hedonist‘s food pairing suggestion:    A great fan of a smooth and spicy Shiraz, this is another bold wine that loves red meat. Perfect with almost any cut or cooking method, this stunning Shiraz would simply lap up the fatty goodness of sausage, beef short ribs, venison and even pork or duck. For a vegetarian option, herby, earthy mushrooms are also great with this wine.

Gondolier Merlot 2018

Gondolier Merlot is named for a thoroughbred racehorse bred at Excelsior that went on to become one of the legends of South African horse racing.

Tasting notes: Full-bodied aromas of dark berries, cacao and rich earth, woven around superbly supple tannins.
In the vineyard:   100% Merlot

In the cellar:  Aged in 10% new oak barrels for 12 months
Cellar door price: Excelsior Reserve Wines (R170) are available online at www.excelsior.co.za

The Little Hedonist‘s food pairing suggestion:     The third of the red meat loving wines, Merlot is my go-to varietal for almost any meal.  More accepting of food groups other than red meat, this wine goes exceptionally well with a cheese platter, especially with the creamier, more mature cheeses. It compliments dishes with pasta, tomatoes, garlic, berry and fruit components and even chicken.

In conclusion

As I watered my freshly planted seeds, I thought about the stories in each of these bottles. The single thread that binds Excelsior’s book together, is woven with courage, strength, bravery and a commitment to only the very best.

As I tended my garden and marvelled at the delicate new leaves and buds unfurling after winter, I thought about the way in which hardships plot our path. I thought about how we have this incredible ability to turn every end of a chapter into a new one, if we choose to.

Change starts with small steps. Plant something; watch it grow. Nurture it. Reflect. Learn. Bloom.

Thank you, Excelsior Wine Estate, for this incredible gift, and for the chance to quietly reflect on our winters, whilst preparing for the arrival of spring.

Connect with us on @excelsiorwine
#RealWineRealPeople #ExcelsiorFrontRunners #ExcelsiorWine

Disclaimer: I was given this product(s) as part of a press drop in exchange for my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated / credited, are also my own.

The Little Hedonist endorses responsible drinking.
Don’t drink and drive. Not for persons under 18.

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