Wine to a tee: golfers with their own wines - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

The winner of golf's major championship The Open not only gets to see their name engraved on the trophy winners plaque but will also be able to put the silver Claret Jug to the use it was intended - serving claret wine from it. And if that's wine with your name on it then even better. Because there are professional golfers, both past and present, who have their own ranges of wines.

South African golfer Ernie Els launched his own range of South African wines in 1999 starting with a Bordeaux-style claret.

The Stellenbosch Els estates grow the ‘classic’ red claret grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cinsault - the white grape variety that made its name in South African - Chenin Blanc - is sourced from another vineyard in Paardeberg.

Once picked the grapes are crushed before being micro-vinified – each grape type is kept separate and fermented individually.

These finished single-grape varietal wines are then blended in a similar proportion to the high percentage Cabernet Sauvignon blends found in Bordeaux reds made in the ‘left bank’ region of the Médoc. The final recipe for Els’s claret-type blend would not be amiss at the première crus vineyard Château Latour.

The blackcurrant, coffee and marzipan tasting wines have been winning awards and accolades since the first bottles left the winery in 2000. Els wines have annually scored between 91 to 93 points out of 100 in taste tests run by the influential American magazine Wine Spectator. These potentially long-lived wines are on sale in the UK at a range of wine merchants, including Frontier Fine WinesSA Wines, Hedley Wright Wine Merchants, Sandhams Wine Merchants and Gerrard Seel.

Greg Norman, the six-foot tall two-times Open champion, starting selling his own-label Estates wines through the big Australian winemakers Wolf Blass in 1996. Greg enjoyed turning his “passion into a business” so much that he expanded his wine operations into Californian where he now lives with wife Laura.

Grapes for his Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines are sourced from vineyards along Australia’s Limestone Coast as well as California, where he now also uses Santa Barbara Pinot Noir and Russian River Chardonnay. There's even a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the menu too.

The original Pasa Robles Petite Sirah (related to the French grape Syrah but tastes of prunes) and a Lake County Zinfandel have been shelved along with a sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend.

The wines are designed to go with food. Greg feels “no meal would be complete without wine as an accompaniment” and regularly “drinks a Chardonnay at an al fresco summer lunch, or a Cabernet-Merlot with friends over a leisurely dinner.” His philosophy of drinking “whatever wine you feel like” was shared by golfing legend Arnold Palmer, another professional golfer turned wine maker.

Palmer, who died in 2016, left his winemaking to someone else - like Els and Norman. Luna Vineyards, of Napa Valley California, produced Arnold Palmer Wines destined for expensive American restaurants, holiday resorts and wine shops. The wines are still available through Wine Cellar Club.

"I can remember many times in my life when wine made a day or the night enjoyable," said Palmer, an experience we can all understand.

arnoldpalmerbottlesontray1 01

 

Other golfers with their own wine brands

Sir Nick Faldo

Luke Donald also here

Retief Goosen

Jack Nicklaus

Gary Player

Jan Stephenson

Louis Oosthuizen

Cristie Kerr

David Frost

Mike Weir (placed into receivership in 2019)

Annika Sorenstam (last seen mentioned 2019)

Dave Love III (last seen mentioned 2016)

Juan Antonio 'Chi-Chi' Rodriguez (last seen mentioned 2013)

 

What do they taste like?

louis57doubleeaglechardonnayLouis Oosthuizen Louis57 Double Eagle Chardonnay 2019

£12.93 Sporting Wine Club (equivalent price when bought as 6x75cl at £77.60), or part of 3 bottle gift set £60

three stars

 

South African professional golfer Louis Oosthuizen’s range of 8 wines (4 red, 2 rosés, 2 whites) are bottled under the Louis57 brand (named after a memorable round of 57 at Mossel Bay Golf Course in 2002). What started out as a hobby for Louis in 2009, when he was just 26 years-old, has blossomed into internationally available wines with a gin and a brandy as a backup. While other professional golfers choose to match robust wines with eye-catching logos, the Louis57 range is subtle in both flavour and label design – in fact it’s hard to distinguish that it is the wine of an Open Championship winner from the bottle alone. So don’t expect traditional full-flavoured South African wines but ones in a lighter, softer style. The Double Eagle Chardonnay is all light lemon and apple with added soft butter and a light woody note.

 

Louis Oosthuizen Louis57 Open Championship Syrah 2016

£16.95 Sporting Wine Club (equivalent price when bought as 6x75cl at £101.70)

three stars

 

Although this is a 2016 vintage there is sign of its aging potential from the clear edge to the wine’s colour when seen through an angled wine glass. It may be a Syrah but the flavour is light and fruity with a spicy nutmeg and leather finish. Plum, blackcurrant, black cherry and milky coffee – this is a modern style South African wine.

 

Louis Oosthuizen Louis57 Jasoma Conclusion 2016

£16.95 Sporting Wine Club (equivalent price when bought as 6x75cl at £101.70), or part of 3 bottle gift set £60

three stars

 

This South African red blend is equivalent to a French Bordeaux with its mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grape varieties. Although this is a 2016 vintage there is sign of its aging potential from the clear edge to the wine’s colour when seen through an angled wine glass. The flavour is sharp, spicy and fruity with added meaty Bovril spread and black treacle notes. If you’re a fan of old-fashioned children’s sweets then you’ll like the taste of blackcurrant chews with cherry shoelaces. Quite a light mouthful for all that. A nice wine.

 

signature 2015 bottle shotErnie Els Signature 2015

£53.95 Wine Direct, £54.15 Frontier Fine Wines, £61.25 Gerrard Seel

three stars

 

Professional South African golfer Ernie Els started his Stellenbosch wine range in 1999 with a Bordeaux red blend and this has become his Signature range and “a reflection of my personal style”. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc grape varieties results in a complex wine where fresh blackcurrant aromas dominate. Added cocoa and milky coffee are there on the flavour as well as apple and almond plus a lavender back note. The clear edge to the to the wine’s colour when seen through an angled wine glass indicates aging potential but would you actually want to wait any longer to drink this and potentially smooth away all the interesting flavours?

 

Ernie Els Proprietor’s Blend 2017

£27.20 Frontier Fine Wines, £28.90 Gerrard Seel

three stars

 

The Proprietor’s Blend only differs from the more expensive Signature Blend is the replacement of much of the Merlot with Shiraz and the time spent maturing in French oak barrels – 18 months compared to 20 months for the Signature – and their vintage – here we have the 2017 which is more blackberry and raspberry with a slight earthiness to the flavour with a slight spiciness while the older Signature Blend from 2015 was slightly smoother and richer. Not much in it in terms of flavour difference and only a top taste buds would notice the difference.

 

Ernie Els Major Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

£18.50 Cellar Selected, £19.65 Frontier Wines, £21 Gerrard Seel

three stars

 

Although this is a 2017 vintage there is sign of its aging potential from the clear edge to the wine’s colour when seen through an angled wine glass. And watch out for the tartrate crystals – these will settle out if you decant the wine into a jug before you drink it otherwise you’ll get a mouthful of harmless gritty crystals that are a by-product of the tartaric acid found in grapes which then solidify out of the wine later in the bottle. Expect aromas of warm blackberry crumble pudding with added perfumed violet creams. The flavour is slightly smoky with sharp under ripe cherry and some oakiness. It smooths out into rich, slightly sweet, plum flavours the longer you leave it in the decanter. Match to sausages and mash.

 

Ernie Els Big Easy Chenin Blanc 2019

£10.95 Fine Wine Direct, £12.95 Frontier Fine Wine, £14.30 Gerrard Seel

three stars

 

The lighter style Big Easy brand is named after this 6ft 3in tall golfer’s nickname and his fluid golf swing. This is the only Big Easy white so far and it’s a classic South African Chenin Blanc with light pear and banana aromas with a light oaky tang. The flavour is crisp and fruitily flavourful so rather than drink this as an aperitif try matching to robust foods like spicy bean burger.

 

Ernie Els Big Easy Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2020

£12.95 Frontier Fine Wines and Wine Direct

three stars

 

This is the only Big Easy rosé so far with a slight sweetness with flavours of strawberry tart and bubblegum with a sherbet tang. Apple tartness balances out the flavours along with fresh bread chewiness. Quite a lot of flavour going on – this is not a subtle Provence-style rosé.

 

Ernie Els 2004 (reviewed in 2007)

This deep-red coloured wine tastes of blackcurrant, coffee and marzipan. It’s good, but the real value of this wine is that it will improve with age. If you have a cool spot in your house, or even a wine cellar, store this wine for 5 years and then drink it. Its fruit and cake flavours should have softened into silky smoothness.

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About WineUncorked and its editor, Paula Goddard Read more