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© Cape Times Friday 15th January 2016 When is a cork not a cork? When it’s agrafe.  This sounds...

Uncorking the story behind agrafe.

© Cape Times Friday 15th January 2016

When is a cork not a cork? When it’s agrafe.  This sounds like some kind of wine geek joke doesn’t it? But actually, it’s not a joke at all but an old/new way of making sparkling wine.  So, as this weekend is set to be full of romantic bubblies getting popped, I thought it would be nice to talk about a new bubbly which actually gets popped twice over.

A bit of background in case you don’t know how bubbles get into a bottle in the first place. Méthode Cap Classique or MCC is made using two fermentations. The first one turns sugary grape juice into dry still wine and then some more sugar and yeast is added to cause a second fermentation. Fermentation produces alcohol and carbon dioxide and because this second fermentation takes place inside a sealed bottle, the CO2 can’t go anywhere so gets trapped inside the wine making it bubbly. Nowadays most bottles used for this second fermentation are sealed with a crown cap – exactly like those used to close beer bottles – but traditionally, bottles were closed with a special cork and a large staple known as an agrafe.

Le Lude is a new cellar in Franschhoek at the foot of the mountains which is making only MCC. Set up five years ago by Nic and Ferda Barrow, the aim was to make premium quality bubbles from classic Champagne varieties. As part of their quest for the best, they hired one of the most passionate winemakers around, Paul Gerber, to oversee the vineyards and make the wine. Paul is an ex-maths teacher and retains an academic and analytical approach to winemaking. As part of his ongoing search for even better bubblies, he decided to carry out experiments with agrafe closures to see if it made any difference to the wines.

And surprise surprise, it does make a difference – and it’s one that is easy to taste and distinguish. After Paul persuaded cork manufacturers Amorim to bring in some special corks and staples, he started to bottle some bottles and magnums of wine each year using these corks. Initial attempts were not always successful and it took several explosions to get it right, but now it is possible to try wines sealed with the two different methods side by side and actually taste the difference. Paul believes that the three years spent undergoing the second fermentation on cork leads to much more mouthfeel and texture, giving savoury flavours which most bubbles only acquire with age as they lose freshness. The agrafe seal allows the le Lude MCCs to have both freshness and complexity from the get-go and frankly, tastes just completely delicious.

Currently available are the Brut and Brut Rose NV, both costing around the R195 mark and made in the normal way, whilst the top wines which use the agrafe seal will be released later this year and early next year. So there you go – a bubbly with a difference and one which would certainly make my Valentine’s Day a happy one this year.

This weekend is about more than Valentine’s Day, bubblies, hearts and flowers however. Sharing centre stage with the romance is the AfriAsia Cape Wine Auction which takes place tomorrow at Klein Constantia and aims to be the biggest charity event of the year, auctioning off experiences and packages that money almost literally cannot buy.  Incredible meals, exclusive getaways, unique wines, unheard of luxuries – all these are going to go under the hammer this weekend with all profits going to some great charities around the Cape. I will be using some of last year’s funds to teach the Pinotage Youth Development Academy students about international wines, something which we believe will improve their skill set and make them even more employable than they already are. If you hurry, you can still register to bid at the Auction (online registration is open until 12 noon today) but if it’s a little out of your league, still keep an eye open for the many good works which will hopefully be able to take place as a result of this year’s lots.

© 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 November 2013 Parents out there – the countdown has begun! Yes, it’s now a...

Family time, sans whine.

© Cape Times Friday 15th November 2013
Parents out there – the countdown has begun! Yes, it’s now a mere three weeks until the school holidays with all that that entails. In my house, it means a long nightmare of organising playdates, fetching and carrying, arguments about playing on the Wii and the Xbox and grizzles of “I’m bored!” appearing at regular intervals. So it was good timing on the part of the canny Robertson Wine Valley folk to invite me to jol around there last weekend and see what sort of non-electronic family-friendly things you can get up to which will please young and old alike.

For several years now we have spent part of our Christmas holidays in Montagu, living in the swimming pool and only venturing forth to restock the wine cabinet. Which is a shame as there are plenty of things you can get up to if you try. It’s a richly diverse valley, as famed for racehorses, apricots and wildlife as it is for wine. First up on our family-friendly itinerary was a visit to Farmer Redbeard. This is a new venture by ninth-generation farmer Albertus van Zyl and his wife Patrizia – and yes, he does indeed have a red beard! Located right in the heart of the stunning Langeberg mountain, they have opened their farm to a whole range of hands-on farming experiences for all us city-slickers who think that milk comes from plastic bags in Pick n Pay. You can pick fruit, ride in a tractor, make honey, play ball with the smiling and friendly dogs, learn to cook traditional preserves or do what I did – taste Albertus’s hopefully-soon-to-be released range of witblits and fruit spirits. I’m becoming increasingly interested in spirits and distilling and from the marked increase of boutique spirits and handcrafted sips coming my way, it’s clear that I’m not alone.

You need to book all the activities at Farmer Redbeard’s in case they’ve disappeared off up the mountains to their latest project – the newly-refurbished ‘braai bus’ – so contact them on www.farmerredbeard.co.za. But if you can’t get organised in time, then head for the place that’s always open, always friendly and always stocked with great wine – Van Loveren wines. If you haven’t been recently, you may be in for a bit of a shock because the slightly-ramshackle tasting tables have been replaced by an uber-larney modern barn and water feature. But fear not, the Van Loveren warmth and charm is still very much in place and over a bottle of their MCC, marketing manager Bonita Malherbe shared all their news. The aim of all the changes was to encourage visitors to linger longer at the farm and it seems to be working as they have experienced a massive 45% increase in spend per head since the tasting centre opened! Apart from the fabulous children’s grape juice and jelly-tot tasting, they have a whole range of different pairing options matching their large range of wines to meat, cheese and chocolates. The mountain bike and hiking trails are now fully-open and Christina’s Bistro is cranking out excellent, thin-crust pizzas to many of the 500 guests a day in season. What I like about Van Loveren is that there is something for everyone and they are open 7 days a week, 362 days a year – admirable business-sense in my opinion.

If you want more family-friendly wine farms, there is Viljoensdrift with its boat rides, jungle gyms at Bon Courage, Bon Cap and Ashton Kelder, large lawns and a lake at Springfield and the lovely grounds and stoep of De Wetshof (a place forever etched on my brain as it was against the wall of which my son once pulled down his pants and had a wee in front of amused visitors). Non-wine farm activities include the animals at the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary in McGregor, crocodiles at Birds Paradise, horse-riding at Nerina Guest Farm and if beer is your thing, head outside to the Saggy Stone Brewery at Agtervinkrivier where there’s lots of space and jungle gyms for the kids whilst you taste some of the Robinson brothers’ fine ales. Witblits, wine, beer and peace and quiet in which to try them all – Robertson Wine Valley is a family-paradise over the holiday season, go and spend a day or two amidst its many charms.

© 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…..

© Cape Times Friday 30th December 2011 Everyone loves champagne. Well, don’t they? Perhaps it’s just me, but I...

Rather avant garde?

© Cape Times Friday 30th December 2011
Everyone loves champagne. Well, don’t they? Perhaps it’s just me, but I thought that the opportunity to open a bottle of bubbly was something anybody would rush to do. Whether it’s ‘proper’ champagne (the French are highly protective of the actual word ‘champagne’ leaving us to call our home-grown fizzes either Methode Cap Classique or merely Sparkling Wine), or any of the many other options, when it comes to bubbles, there really is something for everyone. Here, just in time for New Year’s Eve, are a few suggestions for people who think they’re too fussy for fizz.

“It’s too dry.” Brut on a sparkling wine label doesn’t mean it’s made from aftershave, it means it’s dry, and even though ‘dry’ MCC’s can have up to three times the amount of sugar as a still wine, many of them are just too acidic for a lot of drinkers. So if you have a sweet tooth, here is a pink which might just please your palate this year. Naughty Girl Sparkling Rose (R49.99) is made in Worcester by Alvi’s Drift Vineyards and is a cheeky, fun alternative to drier styles of wine. It’s made from mainly Muscat grapes with some Colombard and Malbec and sweet but still quite refreshing with a helpful low alcohol of 7.5%. Check out the Marilyn Monroe-type label too!

“It’s too sweet.” Most MCC’s get some sugar and grape juice added just before the cork is inserted and the wire net put on – but not all. Wines without any ‘dosage’ as this sweetener is termed, are becoming very fashionable. Try Pierre Jourdan Brut Sauvage from Haute Cabriere or Villiera’s Brut Natural, both of which are widely available. Or the new wine from Graham Beck – the Brut Zero (R205) which has spent 5 years on the lees and is almost savoury in its intensity. Smaller producers who also eschew any added sweetness include Carla Pauw’s Saltare, Sterhuis and Ross Gower Wines.

“I only drink red wine.” Well that’s okay, don’t let it put you off enjoying some fizz! There are growing numbers of sparkling red wines around – at the entry-level end of things you can enjoy the La Chanson Naturally Delicate Red from J.C.Le Roux (R42.95) which is fizzy, frothy and fun or if you want to see just how good bubbly reds can be, try Nitida’s Matriarch in Red MCC (R115) which is made from Shiraz and offers concentrated plummy fruit with some smoky, raising-y hints.

“I only drink French Champagne.” Really? Are you single and can I have your phone number? I personally believe that MCC’s in this country are right up there with the finest France can offer, but sometimes a little glamour doesn’t do any harm. Chabivin (www.chabivin.co.za) import the Guy Charbaut range which starts at around R400 a bottle – I especially loved the pink which is full of star anise and cinnamon. Great Domaines (www.greatdomaines.co.za) import De La Motte Champagne which starts at around R550 a bottle. And if you have more money than sense, you can buy the über-exclusive Salon 1999 (R2,800) which has been 11 years on the lees. The reason I say ‘no sense’ is because despite being the oldest wine I’m recommending today, it is far from ready and it would be an absolute crime to drink it now! But believe me, your patience will be rewarded.

“It’s too expensive.” When you think of all the processes and time involved in making an MCC, it’s actually not that expensive, but never fear – there is more than one way of getting bubbles into bottles, and it doesn’t need to cost the earth. Van Loveren are renowned for their good value wines and have a very good sparkling Sauvignon Blanc which costs a meagre R34.95 – a bargain if ever there was one! Most of the J.C. Le Roux range comes in around the early R40’s mark and if you don’t drink alcohol, you can enjoy Mont d’Or Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Grape Juice for R29.95. But if even this is too much for you, here is a secret tip for New Year’s Eve – buy yourself an inexpensive bottle of still wine and whack it through your Sodastream – instant fizz at a rock-bottom price!

Whichever kind of bubbles you choose, I hope you have a good New Year’s Eve party. Drive safely (I’ll be using Goodfellas to get me home, www.gfellas.co.za ) and I look forward to sharing more wines with you in 2012.

© 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.

Ah-ha – bet you all thought I wasn’t going to write about fizz anymore didn’t you? Fat chance, especially...

Fab Fun at the Franschhoek Fizz Fest!

Ah-ha – bet you all thought I wasn’t going to write about fizz anymore didn’t you? Fat chance, especially after this weekend which was one of the most awesome festivals and all-round good times I can remember having for many a month. Yes, it was time for the great, the good, the glamorous and – of course – me to gather in a very spacious and larney tent at the top-end of Franschhoek’s main street for the Investec Champagne and MCC Festival. Stunning setting, lots of sunshine, plenty of umbrellas and seating (hooray – I hate having to stand all day or worse, having to mess up my nice white trousers by sitting on the grass) and bubbles as far as the eye can see.

Speaking of eyes -  I had half a moment of quaking fear meeting Lindelize Jonker from Weltevrede after having written about coveting her husband. Luckily he was wearing his champagne goggles and only had eyes for her, so I think she has now forgiven me (hope so anyway!!). Their Aletheia is still one of the most enjoyable fizzes around - and I’m not just saying that to get back in her good books!

Other star performers were the new Silverthorn pink, ‘The Genie’ from Steenberg’s John Loubser, the new Pinot from Steenberg itself (check out those funky boxes!!), the Morena from Franschhoek Vineyards with their unique seal of string and little knife and the Henri Giraud Blanc de Blanc Champagne imported by Inke Gouws. Everything from Graham Beck was brilliant as always. And I also loved the Hendrik Lodewyk  from Du Preez – isn’t it great to see that people can make great wine at all ends of the price scale? Their Sauvignon Blanc is still one of the cheapest and cheeriest Sauvignons around and this MCC is divine.  And Hennie was very accommodating in offering a ‘mate rate’ on his fizz as well! Cheers Hennie.

Other fun fizzes? There is a new Old Man in town – no, not winemaker Lukas Wentzel although he claims his 2-year old son is putting years on him already – but the new Old Man’s Sparkle from Groote Post. Made from Merlot and a lurid shade of pink, this was surprisingly concentrated and very tasty. Right next door to him stood the lovely Jacus Marais from Nitida with his off-the-wall sparkling Shiraz. On a strictly personal level, I struggle with red fizz, but everyone else seemed to be loving it – apparently it is a great breakfast drink so I must try it with bacon and eggs next time. I bet it beats OJ any day.

Surprisingly my pic of the day isn’t a wine one but a foodie one. Get this folks – how amazing is it to see Margot Janse, one of the Top 50 chefs in the World (that’s the WHOLE WORLD people!!) flipping burgers and toasting foccacia rolls!!! What a total star this lady is – no side, no airs and graces – just a job to do, people to feed, burgers to flip. And it was a great burger too (although not quite as good as we used to make at The Nose – preen, preen!) and proved excellent at mopping up all the bubbles we had consumed over the day.

If you didn’t go this year – FOOLS!!! You so missed out on the event of the year. If you did go, then I hope you had as good a time as me and if you were that snake-hipped tall chap in the red striped shirt and white panama – save a dance for me next time!

If I’m not careful, this blog is going to turn into nothing but a fanzine for fizz! Two events...

Fizz, Fizz and more Fizz … hic!

If I’m not careful, this blog is going to turn into nothing but a fanzine for fizz! Two events in the last 10 days have involved that wondrous concoction of yeast, sugar and a strong cap – at slightly different ends of the market it is true, but nevertheless, all enjoyable.

jclerouxrose3I started the other Friday with the launch of the new off-dry MCC by J.C.le Roux out in Devon Valley – oh my word, what a beautiful venue! Apparently a huge revamp has taken place and the setting is superb. I decided that finally it was time to overcome my oyster problem – very tasty they were too – and I enjoyed browsing round the very bling-icious shop with its many and varied types of JC fizz. I must say, I am increasingly enjoying fizz and food and, although the new Le Vallée rosé was sweeter than I normally drink, it stood up surprisingly well to the dishes on offer. When a pink fizz can hack it with roast duck and a wine reduction jus, you know it must have some balls and this one managed it nicely, although it paired best of all with the yummy Banoffee pie for afters.  Very more-ish indeed.

Sitting next to Mike Bampfield-Duggan, who’s never backwards in coming forwards, meant that our table also got the chance to try all the other J.C. le Roux fizzes and I would have to give my vote for fave of the day to the Pinot Noir. At least I would if it wasn’t for the lousy packaging which completely lets down the seriously delicious wine it contains. Honestly – they really should think again about it – it’s an embarrassment to have it in an ice bucket!


The same cannot be said for the event of the following Friday, however – the launch of Vanilla restaurant in the new Cape Quarter. They had chosen to go big with bottles and bottles of French fizz – Moët (both the white and the pink) and Veuve. The problem was they were interspersing these bottles with Pongracz  and Pierre Jourdan which meant you had to carefully time your consumption so that you got your glass filled with the good stuff – at one point, I am ashamed to admit doing a bit of impromptu ‘blending’ of Moët and Veuve!!! The restaurant itself is very smart and cool but it did make me wonder whether I am a little too old/fat/untrendy/ginger to go there in all honesty. In fact, as I stood there in my comfy librarian sandals, I felt rather like the J.C.le Roux Pinot Noir – lots of good qualities, all of them totally overshadowed by a completely frumpy exterior!! Oh well, ta-ra for now – I’m off to dye my hair blonde, trade in the sandals for some killer heels and neck a bottle of Veuve. If you can’t beat ‘em…….!