Keeping the Wolf at the Cellar Door


The Wolftrap is a roguish, edgy name which is linked to a very successful South African wine brand. It is apparently named after the discovery of a device used to trap wolves in the mountains of Franschhoek and home to the brand’s owner, Boekenhoutskloof.

This is debatable: wolves – of the wild animal kind – have never been seen in Africa. (I am not talking of those poor creatures kept as pets by small-dicked wannabes). So who would identify this piece of apparatus as a trap for said animals?

I’ll bet my last drop that The Wolfrap is named after the outdoors music venue a short drive from Washington DC. Having spent many a balmy East Coast evening gigging with the likes of BB King, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohan, Elvis Costello and Donald Fagen at The Trap, I get shudders of nostalgic pleasure when seeing the name.

Be that as it may, The Wolftrap is an extremely popular wine and a large part of the success must be attributed to the animal magnetism this name evokes. The Wolftrap White, for example, is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Grenache Blanc and this kind of wine would just never crack it under a lifeless and unappealing name.

Yet the popularity is astounding, which goes to reinforce the power of the brand in the wine world. Terroir. Region. Grape variety… Has been and passé. If you are looking to move numbers, put a sexy sticker on the bottle. Ask the folk at Origin.

But it does help to put some decent stuff in the jug, which The Wolftrap White 2012 most certainly is. It also punches above its weight at R50 a bottle which no doubt adds to the allure.

The wine has a profound presence on the palate, firm but without being clunky. The flavour is characterised by a stony and herby note, which to regular South African white wine drinkers is about as foreign as a Long Street car-guard and can be attributed to the blend’s liberal incorporation of Grenache Blanc.

The acidity is toned down, but the wine is by no means sweet and has no perceivable depth of fruit. More maritime and fynbos, with a hit of wet mussel shell. A really interesting wine, and quite extraordinary for the price. Score: 879/1000.

I was up in Pretoria this week to do the inaugural tasting for the Atterbury Wine Club, and the last thing I expected was to convert 50 red-blooded Blue Bulls to Pinotage. For believe it or not, Merlot is their favourite cultivar in that neck of the woods.

Present in a line-up of seven wines was the Rijk’s Private Cellar Pinotage 2009. And I suppose if you are going to convert somebody to Pinotage, Rijk’s will be as successful in doing so as a piece of boerewors is in evoking bloodlust in a Buddhist.

The wine’s first impression is one of saucy succulence offset by a seductive savouriness. This leads to an array of dark fruit with a good sprinkling of allspice and Zanzibar clove. The wine is immensely complex, heady and unless consumed in moderation leads to the telling of zesty Cape Town jokes to unsuspecting Pretorian blondes, including those of the female variety.

Pierre Wahl, Rijk’s winemaker, is a Pinotage master. But I’d love to see what he does to a batch of Pinot Noir grapes. Make Pretoria surrender, I bet.

The Rijk’s Private Cellar Pinotage 2009 scores 938/1000, enough to make a Blue Bull want to give his gonad for another glass.

Pierre Wahl from Rijk's Private Cellar in Tulbagh.
Pierre Wahl from Rijk’s Private Cellar in Tulbagh.


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