Wine of the week: Kanonkop Kadette 2008

South African red wine has always baffled the Wine Curmudgeon. Its shiraz is often little more than an Australian knockoff, and its signature grape, pinotage, is, to be polite, an acquired taste. There is also the infamous burnt rubber aroma, which shows up in many of the red wines.

So I did not have high hopes for the Kadette ($15, sample), a blend of pinotage, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. Nevertheless, it was easily the best pinotage I have ever had — and this is not damning with faint praise.

There is juicy New World berry fruit, but not overdone or too sweet as is the case with many California red wines at this price. Plus, moderate alcohol and soft tannins make it that much more interesting. The pinotage adds to the wine and doesn't overwhelm it; if I had tasted the Kadette blind, I'd have said it was a California Bordeaux-style blend. And no burnt rubber anywhere at all.

Serve the wine with pot roast and mashed potatoes, a rich, wintery and saucy meat lasagna, or even eggplant parmesan. The Kadette is a tremendous value.

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