Despite efforts to deny it, Afrikaans is the lingua franca of the South African wine industry. Without a cursory idiomatic knowledge of the language and an appreciation for its nuances, much of what wine people wish to convey from their souls is lost upon the ears unfamiliar to the language’s expressive depth.
This looks set to change, to the obvious relief of the pinko colonialists who’d like to see the industry as an off-shoot of the Empire that once ruled the Cape. The University of Stellenbosch is to scrap Afrikaans’s official status, thereby opening the doors to it becoming another anything-goes, lightweight learning institution with the academic credentials of a packet of Jelly Tots. And as the country –and Africa’s – only university offering a degree in oenology and viticulture, Stellenbosch will soon be churning out winemakers, marketers and wine farm owners for whom the Afrikaans culture and traditions which formed the industry are lost, like teardrops in rain.
To counter this, I am currently drinking as many Afrikaans-sounding wines as possible. Before Kanonkop becomes “Gun Crest”, Rust en Vrede changes to “Peace and Chill” and Meerlust runs a sign saying “Lust Better, Lust More”, anything from an Afrikaans brand is going down the gullet.
Wildekrans, a lovely evocative named estate in Bot River, tickled my fancy the past week, with none other than its Estate Pinotage 2013. The Sauvignon Blancs from Wildekrans were just the business back in the 1990’s when Bartho Eksteen was presiding over the wine-making. But more recently, the team of William Wilkinson (wine) and Braam Gericke (viticulture) have driven Wildekrans to become a powerhouse Bot River estate. Variety. Excellence. Skill. Nature. And fierce pride in the brand as well as the estate have made William and Braam the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of Southern Cape winemaking.
Pinotage is taken seriously, with dudes William and Braam proudly donning Pinotage-branded collared shirts to wine functions, and the wines are true beauties.
Cool climate Pinotage is, to my mind, one of South Africa’s great wine offerings. And Wildekrans shows why. The fruit bursts, gushing and sapping, through the wine. A whiff of this stuff will have Abraham Perold, the man who created the Pinotage variety, doing the moonwalk in his grave, as this is the kind of Pinotage he would have envisioned all this year’s ago. Intense, bright flavours of mulberry, plum and Spanish sweet pimento flow around the mouth, while a calm, cool and peaceful presence accompanies the flirty fruit randiness.
Wooding has been judicious – 18 months and French, integrating tannins to create a drink of immense beauty and power. But most of all, once that is just damn well lekker to drink.
To cleanse the palate, I stuck with Wildekrans, and more specifically the Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Like the Pinotage, the Wildekrans Sauvignon Blanc pushes the boundaries as far as varietal character is concerned. First impressions are that of a broad, mouth-filling wine as opposed to the rapier-like thrusts of acidity many Sauvignon Blancs possess. Yes, it is almost watery – of the fresh, pure, chalk-stream kind – before the enticing tang of fruit grips the palate. Cut cantaloupe. Lemon curd. With a delectable salty, maritime finish that makes it difficult not to drink this wine in volumes discouraged by health professionals.
Two great wines, from an estate I will be hearing more of. In any language.
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