Wildekrans Pinotage Barrel Selection 2013

wildekrans-pinotageEvery so often, a wine comes along that completely changes the way I feel about the world. Or maybe not – but it does change the way I feel about a specific wine grape. This is the story of my encounter with such a wine, a story as old as time itself.

It begins a few weeks ago, when I found myself at Tria in Philly, a wine, beer and cheese cafe with some other stuff too. Tria actually has three locations throughout the city, but I always end up at the Rittenhouse one, because I’m like that. Anyway, on this fateful day I happened to sample a few different wines, including a Barolo – made from my all-time favorite grape, Nebbiolo – but it was another one that stole the show: a wine made from a grape I’d actually never much cared for in the past.

The grape? Pinotage, the signature red of South Africa. The wine? Wildekrans Pinotage Barrel Selection 2013 (29.99), from the Bot River in the Cape South Coast region. What did I have against Pinotage before? Nothing serious, really; it’s just that all the varietal Pinotage I’d tried prior to this one struck me as a little boring. Dark berry fruitsĀ  (mulberry, I’m always inclined to say, despite never having tasted a mulberry before) and little else were pretty much all this grape had to offer, I thought. But oh, how deliciously wrong I was!

The Wildekrans Pinotage opened right away on the nose with strong notes of smoke (a signature aspect of Pinotage that tends to be divisive), although some familiar mulberries seemed to be hiding beneath those enticing billows. Risking death by vinous asphyxiation, I dove in, and was immediately swept up by more wisps of smoke, as well as mulberries and a peppery spice (perhaps pepper). The spice carried me through the finish, which was nice and long, and marked with powerful, dependable tannins.

Quite by accident, I ended up pairing this wine with a truffled mushroom bruschetta, and while I usually shy away from black truffle oil (I didn’t know what “truffled” meant at the time), I can think of only a few pairing experiences that I’d rank above this one. The smoky, spicy fruit of the Pinotage was somehow the perfect counterbalance to the aggressive pungency of the truffle oil. Try it if you can.

At Tria this wine sells for $10.50 a glass, and while the 2013 version isn’t currently available via the PLCB, the 2012 vintage is $29.99, making that glass price a downright steal. If you can’t get over to Tria, however, a bottle of this caliber is also well worth the cost.

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