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© Cape Times Friday 21st October 2016 Is the glass half-empty or half-full? As we all know by now,...

Ranges of glasses matched to varieties

© Cape Times Friday 21st October 2016

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? As we all know by now, the answer is ‘Who cares? There’s clearly room for more wine whichever way you look at it.’ Is the glass nothing more than a vessel for conveying a liquid into our mouths or is it so much more than a mere vessel, instead having the ability to actually change the taste and feel of a wine? Or is this yet another wine myth perpetuated by wine snobs intent on ridding us all of our Paris goblets and champagne coupes?

Weighing in on the ‘a glass doesn’t make any difference to the wine at all’ side would be every single beach trattoria, restaurant and bar the length and breadth of the Mediterranean. Here, wine is as likely to be drunk from a tumbler as a wine glass and I’ve had some memorable times sipping wine in sunny beach resorts, even if I can’t remember the quality of said wine! Here, I would argue, it is the occasion, the company and often the view which makes the difference to how the wine tastes.

In the other corner sits glassmakers such as Riedel, Spiegelau and Zalto who offer ranges of glasses supposedly perfectly-matched to certain varieties. I know of people whose palates I would trust implicitly, assuring me that the exact same wine tastes differently in different glasses and so when I was sent a bottle of Leopards Leap Culinaria Pinot Noir 2014 and two Riedel Pinot Noir glasses recently, I had to give this a go myself.

So much of me wanted this not to work, to be able to say to you ‘the wine was the same whichever glass I drank it from’ but the truth is, that this is simply not the truth. The wine WAS different – more perfumed and fragrant in the Riedel Pinot Noir, more earthy in my Riedel Brunello di Montalcino glass and much less fruity in a nondescript not-quite Paris goblet. Was it better in the correct Riedel? Yes, I guess it probably was as long as you appreciate perfume over power (which I do and the wine was delicious). It was a really interesting exercise and I commend it to you all to give it a go if you possibly can.

Someone who’s gone into this in a big way is Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck Wines. The days of the coupe, allegedly-based on Marie Antoinette’s breast (not true, sorry guys), are long gone and now it would seem that the champagne flute is heading in that direction as well. The flute is a great glass to preserve bubbles because it has a small surface area from which they can escape but the narrow neck is not so good at encouraging flavour – which is a problem for Pieter and Graham Beck.

In a recent tasting, we tasted three wines, each in two different glasses – the normal flute and another version, striving to find the perfect combination of flavour, bubbles and (has to be considered) cost. Following extensive experimentation by both Pieter and a team of scientists at Reims University in France, the normal non vintage will now be served in an entry-level Riedel  Champagne glass at the Graham Beck tasting room, whilst the company’s flagship wine, the Cuvée Clive, will come in a hand-blown Lehmann Jamesse Prestige tulip-shaped glass.

The difference between flavours and bubbles from the flutes to the speciality glasses was mindblowing, but the best example was to try the Blanc de Blancs (always my favourite GB wine) in the premium Riedel Veritas Champagne glass. Pronounced salty aromas, persistent bubbles courtesy of small indentations at the base of the glass and creamy, citrus lemon flavours which grew and developed over the course of almost an hour, this was a winning combination. As Graham Beck Wines bids to become the world’s leading MCC producer, it makes absolute sense that each wine is showcased appropriately. And on that note, watch out for a Graham Beck bubbly bar and tasting venue in Cape Town in the near future and in the meantime – drink your bubbles out of bigger, tulip-shaped glasses. So that there’s ALWAYS room for more wine!

© Cape Times Thursday 31st December 2015 Were you at the Nederburg Auction this year? If so, you’d have heard...

Popping Bottles & Cathy’s Top 5 of the Year

© Cape Times Thursday 31st December 2015

Were you at the Nederburg Auction this year? If so, you’d have heard the brilliant UK wine journalist Robert Joseph talking about how to sell more wine. One idea which I particularly remember, mostly because it was so simple, was to put your wine in a box. He was talking about sales of wine at duty-free shops, often used for last-minute shopping and present-buying, but actually it works anywhere. Putting wine in nice packaging makes it far more special and never more so if the wine inside the box is bubbly. Christmas present-giving may be over but if you’re going to a New Year’s Eve party tonight, here’s some ideas of fabulous gifts which you can help enjoy as midnight chimes.

Hands-down winner on the fab-packaging stakes has got to be new, boutique MCC producer Wonderfontein from Robertson.  The Paul Rene Brut was launched the other year and comes in boxes made to look as if they are min-trunks complete with brassy-looking corners and a lock. My 9-year-old son loved the box so much, he stole it immediately and still keeps all his ‘treasures’ inside it two years later, and now they have launched a Rosé as well. This arrived at my door in a fetchingly-designed ‘handbag’ and if you want your pressies this year to have a ‘wow’ factor, this is how to do it. The packaging is designed by owner Monica van Niekerk and the fizz is made by husband Henk. Both the Brut and the Rose are R160 a bottle and have spent over 20 months on the lees and both are deliciously-savoury with plenty of tangy fruit and a creamy finish.

Equally-stylish although a little more restrained is the new Steenberg Lady R MCC. Named after the original owner of the estate, Catharina Ras, this has spent an impressive 55 months on the lees and takes its place at the top of the Steenberg bubbly tree as its flagship. It was launched at a lovely brunch and since I can personally guarantee that it goes great with oysters and smoked salmon, perhaps this is one you should save for a New Year’s Day breakfast instead? Either way, it’s a real pleasure to drink – I do love me a little salty umami-ness and this matches that perfectly with some elegant creamy citrus and crunchy apple notes on the side. Buy it from the estate for R395.

Lots of other bubblies come in nice gift boxes at this time of year and I would give a special mention to the new rose from L’Avenir 2012 (R160) which comes in a lovely silver version. I always love the combination of silver and pink, finding it really elegant and that goes for the wine inside as well. Containing 25% Pinotage in honour of L’Avenir’s signature grape, it’s a fresh and fruity little number with lots of strawberries and cranberries.

Other nice bubbles in boxes include Haute Cabriere’s Pierre Jourdans and a brace of wines from the top ranks of Distell. The Scintilla 2009 (R190), long one of my favourite SA MCC’s, comes in a really funky, futuristic black box which puts me in mind of Star Wars for some reason I cannot possibly fathom. It’s a limited release so grab it whilst you can and may the force be with you. And the Desiderius from Pongracz 2008 (R375) with its lovely fluted bottle in a smart but simpler black box, comes hotfoot from the Effervescents du Monde competition where it made the Top Ten, the only SA wine to do so. With the Scintilla spending 6 years on the lees and the Desiderius spending a minimum of 4 years, these bubblies are serious players, rich and savoury with lingering finishes and delicious, freshening acidity.

Fancy a little bling with your bottle? Well you could splash out on Bottega’s new Pinot Nero Spumante (R390) which comes with little diamonds encrusted on the opaque black bottle. Bottega normally make Prosecco in their family winery in the Veneto region of Italy but although this made in the same method, it’s a different grape – Pinot Noir – so can’t really be described as a Prosecco. This is a good wine for people who prefer their fizz to be on the fresh and fruity side and if Scintilla was Star Wars, this is a bit more James Bond as played by Sean Connery – serioushly shmooth.

If money is no object, then the big name Champagnes have plenty of beautiful-looking bottles available.  The Cristal from Louis Roederer has to be the ultimate in larney packaging this year. At a function a few months ago, importers Reciprocal Wines relayed the story about the clear bottle – something originally intended for the Russian market. The Tsar wanted to make sure there was no poisons or other nasties in his champagne so requested a clear bottle which Roederer did, dressing it up in clear golden wrapping to give the wine some protection from sunlight as well as enhancing its bling appeal. It’s not cheap at R3,295 a bottle but if someone gave me this beautiful baby on New Year’s Eve, I would definitely have a night to remember and no mistake. Happy and bubbly 2016 to us all!!

Cathy’s Top 5 Wines of the Year.
Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc 1992 RD – specially disgorged to celebrate Pieter Ferreira’s Silver Jubilee with the farm and a leftover bottle was ‘liberated’ by me for later drinking. Wish I’d stolen a whole case.
Thelema Sutherland Unwooded Chardonnay 2015 – for some reason I haven’t been able to get it out of my head all year. Just really, really enjoyed it – ‘nuff said.
Mvemve Raats De Compostella 2013 – probably going to be my favourite red of this, and every single other, year.
Mullineux Olerasay Straw Wine NV – I was on this tasting panel for the Platters 5 Star tasting. Don’t recall ever having a wine stand out so outstandingly from its competitors than this.
Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1971 – what can I say? Once in a lifetime……...

© Cape Times Friday 30th October 2015 I’ve had a very bubbly last few weeks.The Amorim MCC Challenge results came out...

Celebrating bubbles

© Cape Times Friday 30th October 2015

I’ve had a very bubbly last few weeks.The Amorim MCC Challenge results came out (congrats to all winners), the Nederburg Auction served one of my favourite fizzes, Scintilla, non-stop to very thirsty guests, Avondale’s Armilla won a major international award and two icons of the SA world of bubbles celebrated Silver Jubilees with two great events. For me – any excuse to celebrate with bubbly is a good excuse, but there’s no denying that these two events were slightly better than most.

First up was the celebration of Pieter Ferreira’s 25th vintage at Graham Beck Wines.  It’s hard to imagine the world of Cap Classique without thinking of Pieter and his passion for his wines, his cheeky sense of humour, his super-cool footwear and his genuine joie de vivre. When he first started out at Graham Beck Wines in 1990, Robertson was neither well-known for Chardonnay, nor MCC and there can be little doubt that Pieter’s efforts and achievements have helped put both on the map. MCC is such an important and growing category in SA and this is a lot to do with his enthusiastic chairmanship of the MCC association, which all makers of MCC are well-advised to join, offering guidance, advice and continually-driving standards upwards.

Graham Beck Wines is littered with accolades and testimonials of the great and the good around the world with the brand being chosen by royalty, presidents, film stars and more. They do three different tiers of wines, very much like most of the top Champagne houses in France, but at the recent celebration lunch they opened something which makes me think they should create a fourth tier of wine as well. My favourite wine from their stable has always been the Blanc de Blanc and for their celebrations, Pieter opened a 1992 which he had recently-disgorged. It reminded me of some of the finest P2 Dom Perignons which I was lucky enough to try earlier on this year – rich, savoury, salty, creamy – a wine to dream of over and over again. Graham Beck RD anyone? I’m right there.

Also celebrating 25 years in the business this year is an equally well-loved name – Pongrácz. Pongrácz winemaker, Elunda Basson, has a while to go to equal Pieter’s record but she is nevertheless one of the longest-serving winemakers for the brand. Created 25 years ago in honour of Desiderius Pongrácz, a Hungarian viticulturist responsible for many of the vineyard practices still used today. ‘Pongie’ as he was known, was a larger-than life character and the celebratory party was all about being bold, over-the-top and exciting, matching the three wines in the Pongrácz range to different tapas nibbles. The prestige Desiderius with its very distinctive bottle was launched in 2002 (the 2003 won Museum Class in this year’s MCC Challenge) and in 2009 the rosé Pongrácz was born.  The wine is now sold in 49 countries around the world with Africa being the fastest-growing region, making for a proudly South African story all round.

With new MCC’s being launched almost on a weekly basis, it can be easy to forget such stalwarts as Pongrácz and Graham Beck, but I think the importance of having a brand and a winemaker solely-dedicated to crafting fine MCC cannot be overstated. People tend to think that if they can make wine, they can make bubbles, but this really isn’t the case – sure you can have the odd flash in the pan, but to consistently top the awards lists around the world takes serious knowledge, concentration and effort. Staying put and getting really good seems to be the recipe for success in the world of MCC so happy anniversary Pieter and Pongie – may you continue to rock and rule the roost for many more years to come.

© Cape Times Friday 15th February 2013 When is champagne not champagne? When it’s an MCC of course. If...

Cape Sparkle

© Cape Times Friday 15th February 2013
When is champagne not champagne? When it’s an MCC of course. If you have no idea what I’m talking about – not to worry, it’s a subject that often confuses a lot of people. Champagne is a region in France and the term ‘Champagne’ can only be applied to wines made there. Here in South Africa, we make sparkling wines in exactly the same way as they do in Champagne, but legally, we have to refer to them as Methode Cap Classique – ie, made in the classical way in the Cape. So now we’ve got that confusion cleared up, onto the wines themselves which can also confuse and bemuse! Take one of our foremost MCC producers, Graham Beck Wines, for example. Currently they have seven MCC’s on the market, covering a bewildering gamut of different styles and tastes. A recent visit to the farm in Robertson threw up a few new favourites, and since my fizz-drinking is never confined to just one day a year, this is what I shall be drinking post-Valentines this year.

Unlike most still wines, the least expensive sparklers are often the ones which involve the most work. Pieter Ferreira, cellarmaster of Graham Beck, has been making MCCs there for over 20 years and his entry-level non-vintage MCC, which comes in both white and pink versions (R105 for both), is the one most people buy – production is now at a staggering 90,000 cases per year. Unlike a lot of other styles of wine, Pieter’s job here is to ensure that when you buy a bottle of this wine, it tastes exactly the same as the last bottle of it you bought. Consistency is the key – after all, MCC often denotes a special occasion and the last thing you want is yours ruined by your celebration fizz – and Pieter must bring all his years of experience to bear to keep it tasting the same, year in, year out. He does this by a process called ‘back-blending’ which means that every year he keeps some wine in reserve and he adds this in differing proportions to tinker with the next year’s blend and make the final wine taste the same as all the others.

It’s a tough job – which I know people never believe when you say that about anything in the wine industry – and can seem almost prescriptive for a winemaker, in that they don’t have the chance to put their own stamp on the house style. That privilege is reserved for the vintage wines and prestige cuvées which is where Pieter is able to pick and choose the most interesting parcels of wines and turn them into something spectacular. His current drinking favourites (and mine too, I must say) are the 2008 Blanc de Blancs and the 2006 Brut Zero – more confusing terms! A Blanc de Blancs simply means ‘a white wine made from white grapes’ which seems rather obvious, until you remember you can make a white wine from black grapes. The 2008 is 100% Chardonnay and has been in the bottle for more than 3 years. It’s a rich savoury wine with flavours of toasted almond croissant and a lemon meringue pie finish. Costing R205 from the farm, it is well worth splashing out on.

Pieter’s other favourite of the moment is the Brut Zero 2006, where the ‘zero’ bit refers to the fact that there has been no sugar added to the wine, something which commonly happens with most styles of MCC or champagne. This means that it is a delicious, tangy, yeasty, bready mouthful which cries out for a salty oyster and which lasts forever in your mouth. Also costing R205 from the farm, this is something to savour slowly with someone special. Who cares if Valentine’s Day was yesterday – I refuse to pander to the dictates of petty commercialism and shall be drinking this tonight and any other night I feel it’s appropriate. And I think that might be pretty often…..

St Cyprian’s School PA ‘Bubbly Tasting’ with Steenberg Vineyards & Graham Beck Thursday 10 May (6pm for 6:30pm) Venue:...

Let’s get fizzical !

St Cyprian’s School PA ‘Bubbly Tasting’ with
Steenberg Vineyards & Graham Beck

Thursday 10 May (6pm for 6:30pm)
Venue: The Voorkamer
St Cyprian’s School
Gorge Road
Oranjezicht
R150pp

Hosted by Cathy Marston (wine educator, Cape Times wine columnist and wine editor of Food24.com),
this is a unique opportunity to taste leading South African Cap Classique Sparkling Wines presented by
John Loubser (the General Manager of Steenberg Vineyards)
& Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira (Graham Beck cellar master)

Bookings: email susan.litten.agent@gmail.com.
Tickets include tasting of 6 sparkling wines plus cheese and biscuits, and great lucky draw prizes.

© Cape Times Friday 20th April 2012 Autumn is definitely on its way here in Cape Town. All the...

Staying in pink fizz

© Cape Times Friday 20th April 2012

Autumn is definitely on its way here in Cape Town. All the usual things – leaves falling, temperature dipping, sun getting slower and slower to raise its head in the mornings – and most people are starting to think in terms of winter- warming wines, those hearty reds with rich meaty flavours and heaps of spice which we’ve all been avoiding for the past six hot months. Well I’m not. I’m going to talk about pink fizz instead.

Perhaps it’s as a result of my obsession with sabraging, but I seem to be drinking more and more fizz these days. It’s not just for celebrating, it’s not just to have with oysters and it’s definitely not just to do with sunshine, because I am increasingly finding that I open a bottle of Cap Classique in the evening for no real reason at all except that I’m thirsty – if you want to call me the Madame Bollinger of the Boland, that’s fine by me. Here’s a couple of interesting bits of info about fizz which not everyone may be aware of, plus a trio of excellent new pink fizzes, along with a new venue recently opened where you can enjoy bubbles to your heart’s content.

Firstly – why do I keep calling it ‘fizz’ or ‘bubbles’ and not simply ‘champagne’? Contrary to what most people think, Champagne is actually a region in France and not a style of wine, so the only bubblies which can be labelled as champagne must come from this area. In SA, we have a nice name for our top fizzes – Methode Cap Classique – which sounds much better than ‘premium sparkling wine’ as many other countries have to call it. An interesting little fact is that although the majority of sparkling wine is white, it’s actually traditionally made from two black grapes and only one white one. MCC’s are also the ‘sweetest’ of dry wines with anything up to 15g of residual sugar allowed for it to be labelled as dry, whereas still wines must have less than 5g.

Sometimes sparkling wines have no sugar or ‘dosage’ added to sweeten them up - the maiden vintage of Rickety Bridge’s Rosé MCC 2010 (R115 from the tasting room) was almost in this style, but at the last moment, winemaker Wynand Grobler decided to add just a touch of sweetness. This wine spent quite a long time in oak barrels so it’s one of the richer pink fizzes with lots of cranberries, strawberries and some lemons too. If you prefer light, fresh, fruity and uncomplicated, then you should check out the Allée Bleue MCC Rosé 2010 (R105 from the tasting room) which was served at their Harvest Bounty Lunch last weekend. Winemaker Van Zyl du Toit has opted for a lighter, easy-drinking style which goes down great with all the estate’s many wedding guests, but he’ll have to increase production soon as the newly-announced boutique hotel on the farm is sure to add extra pressure on already stretched sales.

The last pink fizz I’ve had recently should be enjoyed in situ, and – despite what I said at the start of this article - with oysters. The new Graham Beck Bubbly Bar has opened up at Steenberg Hotel. Named ‘Gorgeous’ after Mr Beck’s favourite term of endearment and staffed with Angelina Jolie look-alikes, it is glamour personified and the absolute best way of making you forget anything to do with winter warmers. The oysters are some of the finest I’ve ever had and the perfect partner can only be the 2009 Graham Beck Brut Rosé (R65 a glass at Gorgeous or R205 a bottle cellar door price). This summer thing ain’t over till this fat lady sings, and I promise you, whilst there’s still plenty of pink bubbles on the horizon, I won’t be singing a single wintery note for some time to come.

© Cape Times Friday 28th October 2011 Spring is quivering on the edge of existence – some days you...

Now’s the time to drink pink

© Cape Times Friday 28th October 2011
Spring is quivering on the edge of existence – some days you think it’s skipped us all together and gone straight for summer, other days you’re forcibly reminded that winter hasn’t let us go just yet. But the best way to tell if Spring has really sprung, is when rosé wines start to hit the shelves.

Pink wine has come a long way from the sweet, sticky stuff of my childhood. Growing up in the UK, the most popular brand was a Portuguese wine called Mateus Rosé which people adored because the raffia-covered bottles could be made into fabulous table lamps once the wine was drunk (this was the 70’s, remember, when raffia-anything was the height of chic). Over the past ten or so years, there has been a Rosé Revolution, with winemakers cutting down on sugar and alcohol, making wine in a much more food-friendly style, and, as a result, the category is growing year on year.

Rosés are much less intense than red wines, in terms of colour and flavour, so many winemakers use grapes from younger vines which haven’t yet had the chance to send their roots far into the soils. Until the vines get to about five to eight years old and gain the necessary depth of flavour, a rosé is the perfect answer for creating cash flow and freeing up cellar space. As people trial new varieties intended for their red wines in years to come, rosé wines are becoming a hotbed of experimentation, with all these different varieties blended together to make for interesting and unusual combinations.

A great example of this is the Graham Beck’s Rosé 2011 (R37), which is a melange of Sangiovese and Malbec – two grape varieties which have nothing to do with each other in any other wine, but which work rather well to produce a refreshingly dry, zingy mouthful of strawberries and cranberries. A similar ‘experiment’ is the ‘Year of the Rooster’ Rosé 2010 (R60) from The Drift Farm out near Napier. Here, Flagstone’s Bruce Jack has added in some Touriga Francesca to Pinotage, Shiraz and Viognier to make a lively little number with an appealing herbaceous edge to it.

Uitkyk’s Flat Roof Manor Pinot Rosé 2010 (R30) mixes two well-known grape varieties in a one-off combination – I’ve never heard of Pinotage and Pinot Grigio being blended, but the resulting wine is a cheery one with fragrant, perfumed red fruit and a dollop of sweetness at the finish. And Kleine Zalze are one of only two producers in the country to use Gamay Noir (2011, R40) – their rosé is deliciously different, light and juicy with hints of herbs and sweet red berries.

But when it comes to experimental combinations, nothing comes close to Bosman Family Vineyards out in Wellington. The Bosmans own the largest single vine nursery in Africa, providing planting material for fruit farms as well as other wine-producing vineyards. In their Vine Garden in the Hemel-en Aarde valley, they’ve got 33 different grape varieties and every single one of them is used to make their rosé – yes, that’s right, a wine with thirty-three different varieties in it! These include such oddballs as Ugni Blanc, Crouchen Blanc, Tempranillo, Roobernet, Durif, Verdelho and Pinot Blanc, and the newly-released 2011 sells for a bargain R50. It’s refreshing and dry with flavours of strawberries, cherries and hints of perfume, and winemaker Corlea Fourie recommends it on its own or with seafood. Spring has sprung and the time to drink pink wine is upon us now!

© Cape Times Friday 31st December 2010 One of the best things about the festive season is that is...

In search of Festive Fizz

Genevieve MCC© Cape Times Friday 31st December 2010
One of the best things about the festive season is that is suddenly becomes okay to drink champagne at any and every opportunity. Which is perfect for people like me – given half a chance and a bigger bank balance, I would do that anyway! However, since neither of those two conditions are prevailing at the moment, I’ll just take the chances I can and make the most of the next forty-eight hours!

South Africa makes some fantastic sparkling wines - legally, we cannot call our fizzes ‘Champagne’ as that only refers to wines from that region of France. The first MCC, or Methode Cap Classique which is SA’s name for it, was made by Frans Malan at Simonsig more than thirty years ago and Kaapse Vonkel has remained at the top of any respectable fizz list to this day. Other well-known bubbly makers include Jeff Grier at Villiera, who is celebrating his second Platter Five Star award for the delicious 2005 Monro Brut, the flamboyant Archim von Arnim at Haute Cabrière, perennial favourite Pongracz from Distell and the stellar range from Graham Beck. But worth seeking out are some of the smaller producers and lesser-known names who are making fizz fit for a king. Here are a few of my favourites.

Robertson is a perfect hotbed of fabulous fizz – apart from Graham Beck it is also home to producers such as Bon Courage have won countless awards both locally and overseas for their Jacques Bruere range. Three new entrants into the world of fizz have all launched in the last few months – and all the farms are within a few hundred metres of each other, situated on the wonderful limestone soils which make for the best champagne grapes. Van Loveren launched their Christina van Loveren MCC (R75 from the farm) at their 30th birthday party earlier on this year and, following swiftly on their heels, neighbours Viljoensdrift produced their Villion MCC (R80 from the farm), a delicate and creamy fizz made from Chardonnay. The final wine in the trio comes from De Wetshof where winemaking son, Peter, has been making Cap Classique since he was fourteen. This is the first vintage he has thought good enough to bottle under his family name and is a complex affair with persistent bubbles and a crisp, toasty finish. Tiny quantities and should retail for about R160.

Leaving Robertson and heading south to Botrivier, you can find Melissa Nelsen’s Genevieve 2008. Melissa is passionate about MCC and made this with a little help from the Gower family. It’s a Blanc de Blanc with plenty of fresh citrussy fruit and a biscuit/brioche finish. Find it at boutique wine shops for around R180. And whilst you’re in the neighbourhood, try the Ross Gower Pinot Noir Brut 2007 (R150 from the farm) as well. Winner of the best rose at the 2009 Cap Classique Challenge, it is bone-dry, zesty and elegant with hints of strawberries and cream cheese. Delicious.

My final foray into great fizz takes me to Franschhoek where you can try the other Platter Five Star fizz at Topiary. This is an astonishing wine – it’s labelled ’Brut’ meaning dry, but has almost three times the amount of sugar which would be allowed in a dry still wine. That it tastes zesty, lively and refreshing is entirely due to the very punchy acidity which balances out the sweetness and turns it into a delicious, rounded mouthfeel and a great lengthy finish. A really good wine at a ridiculously cheap price – R85 from the farm.

Whichever fizz you choose to use in your celebrations, I hope you enjoy it. Have a great New Year – remember to call Goodfellas to get you home safely at the end of your evening (www.gfellas.co.za) -and happy drinking.

This week, all my choices are from amongst the new Five Star wines in the 2011 Platter guide. Botanica...

In my glass this week


This week, all my choices are from amongst the new Five Star wines in the 2011 Platter guide.

Botanica Chenin Blanc 2009
Made by American businesswoman, Ginny Povall, this is an incredibly good example of SA’s best grape. The grapes come from old bushvines in dry Clanwilliam and the flavours of apples, peaches and pears is intense but beautifully balanced out by shimmering acidity and well-managed alcohol. Cracker of a debut wine.

Steenberg Magna Carta 2009
60% Sauvignon from Durbanville blended with 40% barrel-fermented Constantia Semillon, this is as classic and elegant a wine as you could wish to taste. Lively green fruit and veg flavours given depth and complexity by a touch of well-judged cream and vague hints of spice. Endless finish, fully satisfying wine.

Julien Schaal Chardonnay 2009
Possibly my favourite white of the day with all the balance and poise you would expect at this level – in fact, probably more! Subtle and elegant with muted yellow stonefruit offset by fresh acidity and all held together by creamy, faintly nutty oak. Delightful in the extreme.

Graham Beck Ad Honorem 2007
This wine was named in honour of Mr Beck who died earlier on this year – subsequent vintages will be called The Raconteur according to cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira. It’s a blend of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon with a blast of spicy Shiraz. Black fruit tempered by green tomato leaf notes with hints of licorice, powerful tannins and a softer than expected finish.

De Trafford Shiraz 2008
Red wine of the year – it’s a dark, brooding monster which is showing little at the moment apart from masses of potential. Hints of perfume and spice, juicy tannins and a full-bodied black fruit mid-palate and finish. Needs squirreling away for at least another 5 years before you go near it.

Five Stars & Red Wine of the Year Shiraz • De Trafford 2008 Five Stars & White Wine of...

Platter’s 2011 ’5-Star’ Wines of the Year

Five Stars & Red Wine of the Year

Shiraz
• De Trafford 2008

Five Stars & White Wine of the Year

Dessert Wine Unfortified
• Fleur du Cap Bergkelder Selection Noble Late Harvest 2009

Awarded Five Stars

Cabernet Sauvignon
• Boekenhoutskloof 2008
• Delaire Graaf Reserve 2008
• Kanonkop 2007
• Klein Constantia 2008
• Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2007
• Le Riche CWG Auction Reserve 2007

Grenache
• Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection 2008

Pinot Noir
• Meerlust 2008
• Newton Johnson Domaine 2009

Pinotage
• Beyerskloof Diesel 2008

Shiraz
• Boschendal Cecil John Reserve 2008
• Eagles’ Nest 2008
• Haskell Pillars 2008
• Rijk’s Private Cellar 2005
• Saxenburg Select Limited Release 2006

Merlot
• Shannon Mount Bullet 2008

Red Blends
• Ernie Els Signature 2007
• Graham Beck Ad Honorem 2007
• Hartenberg The Mackenzie Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2007
• Nederburg Ingenuity Red 2007
• Reyneke Reserve Red 2008
• Spier Frans K. Smit 2006
• Vergelegen Red 2005

Chardonnay
• Groot Constantia Gouverneurs 2009
• Julien Schaal 2009
• Mulderbosch 2008
• Rustenberg Five Soldiers 2008

Chenin Blanc
• Botanica 2009
• StellenRust ‘45’ Barrel Fermented 2009

Grenache Blanc
• The Foundry 2009

Sauvignon Blanc
• Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run 2010
• Klein Constantia Perdeblokke 2009
• Klein Zalze Family Reserve 2009
• The Berrio 2009
• Zevenwacht 360o 2009

White Blends
• Cape Point Isleidh 2009
• Hermanuspietersfontein Die Bartho 2009
• Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2009
• Nederburg Ingenuity White 2009
• Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay Private Bin D253 2009
• Rall White 2009
• Sadie Family Palladius 2009
• Steenberg Magna Carta 2009
• Steenberg CWG Auction Reserve The Magus 2009
• Strandveld Adamastor 2009
• Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2009

Methode Cap Classique
• Topiary Blanc de Blanc Brut 2008
• Villiera Monro Brut 2005

Dessert Wine, Unfortified
• Fairview La Beryl Blanc 2009
• Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2006
• Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2009
• Nederburg Private Bin Edelkeur 2009

Port
• Boplaas Family Cape Vintage Reserve 2008
• De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2008
• De Krans Cape Tawny NV
• JP Bredell Cape Vintage Reserve 2007

In the words of Damon Albarn, I ‘know my claret from my Beaujolais’ but frankly any excuse for a...

Ooh la la!

beaujolais

In the words of Damon Albarn, I ‘know my claret from my Beaujolais’ but frankly any excuse for a wine festival will do me even if it is one involving barely fermented grape juice with dodgy Gothic text labels. So Friday night saw me, along with some like-minded Francophiles, heading to the French ambassador’s residence to celebrate the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau on these shores. The great and good of Cape Town appeared to be there including some notable wine folk (Lowell Jooste from Klein Constantia, Pieter Ferreira from Graham Beck and John and Lynn Ford from Main Ingredient), media darlings (Priya Reddy and her lovely chap whose name I am sorry to say I never remember) and 300 other thirsty and hungry people. The evening was balmy and warm, the Pastis and Beaujolais were flowing freely, the band was playing charming background music and the MC had graciously apologised to all Irish people present for the football results and had promised not to sing any national anthems, so all seemed good.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a big deal in the UK with people racing to be the first to drive the stuff from the depths of Burgundy to London, preferably wearing fancy dress and driving a vintage car. Normally held on the third Thursday of November, I suppose it is allowable to give them an extra day to get it to the depths of Africa, and in any case, partying on a Friday is always more fun. All seemed well until the food came out. People were starting to circle like vultures, hovering over the delicious trays of Jambon Persille, Terrine, Camembert and delicious Pain au Raisin. After taking a titbit or two, we graciously stood aside to let the rest of the queue have a go, thinking we would make polite conversation and come back for more later.

BIG MISTAKE!! By the time we muscled our way back through the chomping crowds, our stomachs were rumbling, but the platters were bare. It appeared the plane over here was so full of wine, they forgot to load enough of the delicious imported charcuterie and cheese we had been promised. The only answer seemed to be to appropriate 3 full bottles of Beaujolais to assuage our disappointment, hide them in the large red bags advertising an international moving firm which were handily being distributed, walk out with our heads high and our bags clinking and drive off to Bardellis for pizza. We had a great night in the end even if it was atrocious value for R250 a head plus the pizza on top of it all. So vive la France, I suppose, but vive even longer the Italians say I!!!