Ernie Els logoThe Open’s trophy winners plaque is getting rather crowded. July 22 will see the 135th name engraved on the silver Claret Jug as the last hole is being played at Carnoustie, Scotland. After a gap of five years since his last win, I’m hoping that name is Ernie Els. Should the 37-year old South African come first he’ll be able to put the Claret Jug to the use it was intended - serving claret wine from it. Ernie’s own South African version of French claret, made at his 72-hectare Stellenbosch vineyards, would be a fitting choice.

Engelbrecht-Els estates grow the ‘classic’ claret grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. 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 only two wine merchants - SA Wines Online and at both Hedley Wright’s Bishop’s Stortford and Hitchin shops. If you want to taste wines made by other famous golfers you’ll have to move to either Australia or America.

Greg NormanGreg Norman, the six-foot tall two-times Open champion, sells his own-label Estates wines through the big Australian winemakers Wolf Blass. Grapes for his Shiraz wines are sourced from vineyards along Australia’s Limestone Coast, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Coonawarra and his Chardonnay from Yarra Valley. Greg’s winemaker Andrew Hales also mixes in some Pinot Noir grapes to make a sparkling Chardonnay- Pinot Noir wine very similar to champagne.

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. Five wines are bottled under the ‘Greg Norman Californian Estates’ label – a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County, Petite Sirah (related to the French grape Syrah but tastes of prunes) from Paso Robles, a North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Lake County Zinfandel.

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” is shared by Arnold Palmer, another wine-making professional golfer.

Arnold Palmer

Seventy-seven year-old retired Palmer leaves his winemaking to someone else - like Els and Norman. Luna Vineyards, of Napa Valley California, produces Arnold Palmer Wines destined for expensive American restaurants, holiday resorts and wine shops. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay retails at $15 a bottle (approximately £8).

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

PG’s Tips

You’ll find only some of Ernie Els’s, Greg Norman’s and Arnold Palmer’s wines are easy to get hold of.

Ernie Els, South Africa

Wines on sale in the UK from:

SA Wines Online

Ernie Els 2004 £38.99

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.

Ernie Els 2005 in wooden presentation box £46.00

Engelbrecht Els Cirrus Syrah 2003 £23.99

Engelbrecht Els Proprietor’s Blend 2003 £19.99

Hedley Wright Wine Merchants

Ernie Els 2003 £39.95

Engelbrecht Els Proprietor’s Blend 2004 £19.99

Greg Norman Estates, Australia and California 

His wines are available only in Australia and America. They currently sell for between $9.99 and $12.99 a bottle.

Arnold Palmer Wines, Napa Valley, California 

Arnold Palmer Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay sells at $15.00 a bottle.

This first appeared on Drink Up... With Paula Goddard on livingit.com 

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