Having discussed South Africa's Thelema winery here recently with Keith Prothero and others I had put a 2001 Merlot in the drinking queue, and last night that seemed a good match for a duck and wild mushroom ragout over parslied new potatoes. The wine was initially startling. I had not expected so big a wine. It's concentrated and full-bodied, and it bellows camphor for the first half hour or so while the wine's considerable other qualities catch up. Texturally it's very elegant and, as Bob put it, "expensive tasting". The fruit is that black huckleberry I find in so many South African wines softened with the plummier flavors that come with some age, and it seques into a long finish that turned a bit tannic toward the end of the second glass.
My husband had trouble identifying the camphor and distinguishing that from 'herbaceous', so for education purposes I opened a 2000 Bordeaux Superieur called Bois Noir. The wine is mostly cab franc with some merlot and that's a ripe year, so I hoped it would show how different the camphor in the preceding wine was. It did. Poured blind, Bob immediately guessed that the new wine was Bordeaux, and though the herbs came through loud and clear they were "sweeter" and "cedary" and "not medicinal" like the South African. The Bois Noir was also medium bodied, and rustic in style with some chunky tannins. Not a showcase Bordeaux by any means, but good in an average kind of way and drinking well now.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov