In good company!

Very interesting results … non-Champagne sparkling wines did just as well in this blind tasting as the real deal. See what your local professional panel had to say and which ones sound interesting for your upcoming New Year’s Eve celebration.  I, for one, want to try the Graham Beck from South Africa which was repeatedly described as having notes of seaweed & sea salt in combination with a pronounced fruitiness.  Aren’t you curious?!

EXCELLENT (90-94 points)
Boizel NV Champagne Brut Reserve
(92 points)
Region: Champagne, France; Varietals: Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier/Chardonnay; Retail: $49.50
Tasting Notes: Beautiful yellow color. Aromas of toast, brioche and biscuit. Fuller-bodied, excellent acidity and complexity, elegant and classy. Fantastic flavors of apples, with some citrus and lime and some mousse. Again brioche and biscuit. Must be Champagne! (Jens)
Tasting Notes: Lovely nose of toast and biscuits – would definitely say Champagne … full of apples, tea biscuits, ginger. A lovely balance and a finish that lingers on and on … superb! (Theresa)
Tasting Notes: Nose: bubble bath (in a good way), exotic cocnut milk creaminess, orange creamsicle. Palate: exciting balance of ginger, graham crackers, white pepper & fennel, pink grapefruit. (Kens)

Graham Beck 2007 Brut Rosé (92 points)
Region: Stellenbosch, SA; Varietals: Pinot Noir/Chardonnay; Retail: $19.50
Tasting Notes: Blush pink – don’t let the color fool you. Nose has intense sea salt, light rose & watermelon. Wonderful acidity – juicy red fruit and perfext balanced bubbles. Finish is moderate, but delightful all the way there. (Gina)
Tasting Notes: Wonderful light ink color. Very floral on the nose. Aromas of wild flowers, strawberries and notes of seaweed. Well-balanced, complex and elegant. Beautiful flavors of strawberries with elmon and lime. Hints of mousse and biscuit with a touch of sea salt. Wonderful long finish. (Jens)

December Tasting Panel: Jens Strecker, Gina Gregory, Ken O’Hara, Catherine Reynolds, Theresa Slechta, and guest taster: Michael Friesen.

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The Pleasure is PINK!

GRAHAM BECK SAYS: PLEASURE IS PINK!

Daring yet demure, classy yet coquettish, elegant yet effervescent…introducing one of this year’s most exciting Graham Beck debuts – the vivacious new Brut Rosé NV. The latest addition to the Graham Beck Cap Classique portfolio has wine lovers simply bubbling over with delight.

The Brut Rosé NV embodies all that a traditional and finely crafted MCC should, while exuding an infectious spirit of joie de vivre. Elegant and refined, while simultaneously exuberant and racy, this blushing starlet is as versatile as it is good value.

Unashamedly flirtatious and feminine, the Brut Rosé NV turns heads with its alluring silver-pink hue and playful packaging. This classic blend of 55%Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir combines elegance and complexity with fruity intensity. With its fresh cherry berry flavours, lively acids and exhilarating bubbles this is one tantalizing tingle from luscious start to lingering finish.

“When sipping the new Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV you should encounter lively bubbles that dance around your mouth. These bubbles are neither harsh, nor aggressive; rather they will be pin-prick tiny and burst gently and exhilaratingly on your tongue. It’s a tingle no celebration or sunset should be without!” comments Graham Beck Cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira.

The Brut Rosé NV forms part of the Non Vintage collection. Together with the Vintage Collection and Prestige Collection these three ranges comprise the carefully structured Graham Beck Cap Classique portfolio. This three tiered approach mirrors that of the famous French Champagne Houses – further indication that Graham Beck Wines is infinitely capable of keeping such legendary company.

The current Graham Beck Cap Classique portfolio comprises:
The NV Collection
Graham Beck Brut NV (Non Vintage)
Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV (Non Vintage)
Graham Beck Demi-Sec NV (Non Vintage)
The Vintage Collection
Graham Beck Brut Rosé (Vintage)
Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blancs (Vintage)
The Prestige Collection
Graham Beck Cuvée Clive (Vintage)

Sauvignon Blanc takes centre stage

GRAHAM BECK WINES – SAUVIGNON BLANC TAKES CENTRE STAGE

This year the limelight undoubtedly belonged to one very special cultivar – our super sexyand seriously scintillating Sauvignon Blanc. Consumer interest in this variety has never been stronger, with Sauvignon Blanc going from ‘flavour of the month’ to unequivocal bestseller. This year the results from South Africa’s top wine competitions have once againunderlined Graham Beck’s status as one of South Africa’s foremost Sauvignon Blanc producers.The Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run 2009 claimed its place in the Top 10 and scored a whopping five stars at the WINE magazine 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 Awards. Not to be outdone the Pheasants’ Run 2008 also made the prestigious Top 10 line-up with no less than four and a half stars. This extraordinary wine is also the only Sauvignon Blanc to repeatedly be chosen for the Top 10 since the inception of this competition.

This stellar performance followed closely on the heels of a series of outstanding achievements. At the 2009 Veritas Awards, announced in October this year, the Pheasants’ Run Sauvignon Blanc 2008 walked off with a Double Gold Medal, while the 2009 vintage of this wine scored a Gold Medal. Both the Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run Sauvignon Blanc 2008 and the Graham Beck Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (the estate’s very popular varietal Sauvignon) bagged Double Gold Medals at the 2009 Michelangelo Wine Awards. At the same time the Pheasants’ Run 2009 scooped a Gold Medal.

Earlier in the year the Pheasants’ Run ’08 sparkled as one of the Top 10 wines at the Bartho Eksteen Sauvignon Blanc Celebration. At the South African National Young Wine Show the Pheasants’ Run has also demonstrated its true colours, having earned the title of SA Champion Sauvignon Blanc three times in four years – proof that even as a fledgling wine it appeared destined for success.

“I believe the consumer wants to drink a Sauvignon Blanc that has the following winning combination: elegance, a rich ripe style, true purity of fruit, great mouth-feel, fresh and lively acidity as well as a sumptuous palate. A tall order, but one which the Pheasants’ Run more than generously fulfills,” comments Graham Beck’s Franschhoek winemaker Erika Obermeyer. The Pheasants’ Run is undeniably Erika’s “baby” and this self-confessed “Sauvignon Blanc fanatic” has nursed this over-achiever every step of the way on its path to success.

“I just can’t help it, but every sip of a great example of Sauvignon Blanc results in a ‘goose bumps’ moment! I love the challenge that this varietal offers. There is absolutely no room for error at any stage of making a great Sauvignon Blanc,” says Erika.



The Young Guns of Tomorrow

It was a real eye-opener when I was asked to tutor a Champagne tasting for Warren Ellis (Neil Ellis Wines) and some of his peers (mates) in the industry. They represent Buitenverwachting, Klein Constantia, Zevenwacht, Overgaauw and Glenelly. They get together for a technical tasting, decide on a subject and then learn as mush as they can from this event. Last week I had the opportunity to present a Champagne tasting with two English sparkling wines making it an incredible line-up.

  • Ridgeview Estate (UK) Cavendish 2006
  • Camel Valley (UK) Cornwall 2006
  • Taittinger Vintage 2002
  • Moet & Chandon Vintage 2003
  • Vueve Clicquot Vintage 2002
  • Louis Roederer Crystal 2002
  • Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2000
  • Salon Vintage 1997
  • Dom Perignon 2000
  • Vueve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1998
  • Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose Selection NV

It was a memorable tasting and it was nice to give the Champagnes some time in the glass because with that little rise in temperature it exposed more layers and made them almost more complex.

Nothing like Timewasters!

At our end-of-the-year annual Champagne tasting of the Timewaster’s we were thoroughly spoiled with a fantastic line-up of Champagne. Miles Mossop and Pieter Ferreira put out all stops and will be remembered as a classic palate ‘thriller’. The line-up included the following:

  • Louis Roederer Brut Premiere NV & Bollinger Special Cuvee NV
  • Drappier Grande Sendree 1989 & Taittinger 2002
  • Bollinger Grande Anee 1989 & Billecart-Salmon Vintage 1995
  • Duval-Leroy Vintage 1996 & Jean Vesselle Brut Prestige Millesime 1996
  • Jacquesson Avize Grand Cru 2000 & Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 1996
  • Duval-Leroy Rose Siagnee NV & Tribaut Rose NV & Billecart Salmon Brut Rose NV
  • Taittinger Comte de Champagne 1998 & Pol-Roger Sir Winston Churchill 1998

Fancinating and memorable tasting and on an evening like this there was a favourite for all.

When two “Kings” meet!

At Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar in Cape Town I presented a tasting on the Houses of Champagne Pol-Roger and that of Champagne Taittinger last night. Two definitive house styles with a beautiful golden thread through the Non Vintage, vintage and their Prestige Cuvees. Three flight of wines were tasted:

  • Pol-Roger Brut Reserve NV – 35% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier & 30% Chardonnay with 20 to 30% reserve wine. Nice floral notes with hints of red berry fruit on the nose. It opens on the palate with nice rich creamy texture with hints of acacia and honey. Good depth of flavour from the Pinot’s with a refreshing touch from the Chardonnay.   
  •  Taittinger Brut Reserve NV – 40% Chardonnay, 305 Pinot Noir & 30% Pinot Meunier with up to 20% reserve wine. pale straw colour with consistent and fine mousse. Nose is light and delicate with hints of biscuit and brioche. The palate is lean, but has a considerable depth and elegance with a long mineral finish.
  • Pol-Roger Brut Vintage 1999 – 60% Pinot Noir & 40% Chardonnay – Bright, intensely golden hue, with lots of fine bubbles. On the nose the is hints of rose petals with attractive sweetness and freshness. Great toasty notes with nougat and almond flavour. Great intensity on the palate with candied fruit with some quince and marzipan. Good length and lingering flavours.
  • Taitinger Brut Vintage 2002 – 50% Chardonnay & 50% Pinot Noir – Golden straw hue with slight mineral notes to start. Firts impression on the palate is full-bodied. The mid-palate is rich, well-rounded and supple with a wide range of white and yellow fruits. Great length with lots of elegance. Will go very well with white meats in a creamy sauce.
  • Pol-Roger Sir Winston Churchill Brut Millesime 1998 – 60% Pinot Noir & 40% Chardonnay (exact blend closely guarded by the family and only Grand Cru selected) – a legend in its own right and developed after the liberation of Paris and especially for the British Prime Minister, then, Winston Churchill. a colour of brilliant lime green with hints of yellow with extremely delicate fine mousse of tiny bubbles. Bouquet is a real melange of flavour in layers with opening notes of classic strawberry and some forest floor. the nose also reveals notes of fresh citrus and a touch of mint. There is nice nutty aromatics as the wine enters the palate and a fine balance between fruit components and the acidity. Great length and texture with one long finish, reminiscent of a lingering complexity of a classic red wine.
  • Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1998 – 100% Chardonnay – 100% Grand Cru vineyards – Aged minimum 5 years on the lees. It has always been one of my most aspirational Champagne ever and still remains in this way. WOW! Pale yellow straw in colour with silvery youthful glints and exceptionally fine and abundant bubbles are lively and ever lasting. Classic mineral aromas on the nose with delicate fragrance of white blossom with subtle hints of fresh almonds and vanilla. The first impression on the palate is freshness with dominant flavours of citrus fruits, lemon zest and grapefruit. on the palate remarkable finesse with great brioche notes with biscuit and nutty flavours. Intense yet elegant make it a truly remarkable Champagne!

Truly and remarkable and will be remembered for a long while.

Facinating line up!

At our last tastings at Colmant in Franschhoek we were treated to a facinating line up of Champagnes, Cap Classique and other Sparkling Wines of the FCCCC (Franschhoek Champagne Cap Classique Club). Thanks to JeanPhilipe’s preparartion he had us thinking through the whole evening! Here follows the wines tasted and some information on each of them:

1. CREMANT DE BOURGOGNE LOUIS BOUILLOT BLANC DE BLANCS NV R 255 – Norman Goodfellows

Varietal(s): 95% Chardonnay & 5% Aligoté 24 Months on the lees Nose: This blanc de blancs is very different in character from the other pearls in our collection; its herbaceous color translates into the nose where very soft citrus notes mingle with the essence of fresh, dewey grass and aromas of fresh cracked nuts. Palate: The mouth is crisp with a bright acidity playing beautifully alongside flavors of pink grapefruit.

2. CAP CLASSIQUE COLMANT BRUT CHARDONNAY NV R145 100% CHARDONNAY

Grapes From Franschhoek (Colmant/Chamonix) and Robertson (Bruwer) 42 months on the lees Degorged 10 November 2009 – to be released March/April 2010 Dosage 6,0 g/l Delicate light gold colour with a lime-green hue. The nose starts with fresh lemony, floral and green apple notes followed by yeasty and biscuity aromas brought by the lenghty maturation on the lees. Very fine bead of bubbles with a persistent mousse. Opulent on the palate, this wine shows an harmonious balance between the fresh zestiness, the mineral complexity and a warm breath of leesy creaminess. It promises to develop great texture over the years.

3. CAP CLASSIQUE VILLIERA BLANC DE BLANCS 2005 “SHOOTING STAR”

Special Release for the Cape Winemakers Guild’s Auction R400 100% Chardonnay 27 months on the lees and 2 years on the cork. Winemaking Notes: Slightly unripe, healthy fruit was whole bunch pressed in a pneumatic bag press. Only the Cuvée (500 litres/ton) was settled and naturally fermented. After stabilisation and addition of the liqueur de tirage, the wine was bottled for second fermentation. After 27 months on the lees, this sparkling wine was riddled and disgorged. Dosage ensured perfect balance and a further 2 years on the cork has resulted in peak maturity. Tasting Notes: Rich, creamy, yeasty nose with a full, ripe toasty flavour on the palate, developing finesse and complexity on the aftertaste. Powerful and bracing to drink now but could develop more intensity with another year in the bottle.

4. CHAMPAGNE JACQUESSON BLANC DE BLANCS 2000 AVIZE GRAND CRU R825 – CUVEES CLASSIQUES

100% CHARDONNAY 3 parcels in Avize planted between 1962 and 1983 Degorged early 2008 Dosage 3,5 g/l Jacquesson is a privately owned House with a limited annual production of 350,000 bottles. Vineyards totalling 26 hectares in the Grand Cru villages of Aÿ, Avize and Oiry and in the Premier Cru villages of Hautvillers, Dizy and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. These are complemented by some 15 hectares coming from growers in these same villages as well as in the Grand Cru village of Chouilly and the Premier Cru village of Cumières. A stringent vinification process where the great majority of our wines are vinified in oak and are then aged in bottle for the optimum length of time in our cellars. This allows us to release our vintage cuvées when they are ready to drink and not necessarily in chronological order. Dosage is kept to a minimum to preserve the finesse and purity of the wines ; indeed all our vintage wines can technically be classified as extra-brut.

5. FRANCIACORTA BERSI SERLINI EXTRA BRUT 2002 €22 (R240) – ex cellar

80% CHARDONNAY – 20% PINOT BLANC – 6 years on the lees in underground cellar 8500 bottles produced No dosage Nose : delicate, refined with a fragrance of bread crust, having a light inkling of walnut peel Taste : Great Liveliness, dry and fine, elegant with a loving and long lasting end taste of green almond

6. CHAMPAGNE MAILLY GRAND CRU EXTRA BRUT NV R350 – Colmant

No dosage Chardonnay 25%, Pinot Noir 75% 5 to 6 years on the lees in the underground chalk cellars. The speciality of Mailly Grand Cru. Outstanding balance between maturity, full body and acidity. Unveiling a very fresh and elegant floral nose along with aromas of baked bread, hazelnuts and almonds. It is an uncomplicated wine with great nobility. Champagne Mailly Grand Cru is located in the village of Mailly-Champagne on the Northern slope of the “Grande Montagne de Reims” and is independently owned by 77 vine-growers of the village. As an exceptional and almost unique case in the whole of Champagne, Mailly Grand Cru makes every single of its 500.000 yearly bottles exclusively out of Grand Cru grapes coming from its own vineyards.

7. CHAMPAGNE LALLIER GRAND CRU ZERO DOSAGE NV R670 – Cuvees Classiques

No dosage / 4 years on the lees with a cork stopper Chardonnay 20% – Pinot Noir 80% The House of Champagne Lallier is situated in the Grand Cru village of Ay in the Marne Valley. The House is owned and managed by Francis Tribaut. The vineyards of Lallier are situated on the sunny hillsides of the village of Ay. Lallier owns 10hectares of Grand Cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This zero dosage wine shows a return to a unique French wine-making tradition. Fruit for the cuvee is exclusively Grands Crus. This wine has aged 4 years on lattes with cork stoppers maintained by staples. A feature used particularly when only a limited quantity is being made. The wine undergoes partial malolactic fermentation. The wine displays maturity and delightful elegance. The attack is frank, vivacious and creamy. The aromas are well advanced and the finish has a beautiful minerality.

8. CHAMPAGNE JACQUART EXTRA BRUT NV R630 – Norman Goodfellows

Dosage 5g/l Chardonnay 43% – Pinot Noir 38% – Pinot Meunier 19% The bouquet is delicate with blossom, citrus and white fruits hints, as well as a touch of Viennese pastries. On the palate, the impression is fresh and lively, yet without the slightest aggressiveness, revealing citrus fruits scents and hints of warm, freshly baked bread. For decades now, the basis of Champagne JACQUART’S fortunes has been the ingrained knowledge of their 600 growers to produce the right quality fruit from over 800 hectares stretching across all the main regions of Champagne, especially the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs. Their vineyards are spread over 130 different villages of which 22 are rated as Premier Crus and 10 as Grand Crus. The JACQUART cuvées are made with the utmost care in Reims. More than 30 million bottles are kept 20 metres underground in the three-tiered cellars.

9. CAP CLASSIQUE MOOIPLAS « DUEL » NV (Stellenbosch) R135

Chardonnay 40%, Pinot Noir 60% 20 months on the lees – degorged 26 May 09 Grape Analysis Averages: 19.2° B; pH 3.23; TA 9.55 Almond and honey comb on the nose, also dried peach & apricot. Palate is full and rounded, fine creamy mousse.

10. FRANCIACORTA BERLUCCHI « CUVEE STORICA » NV R351 – Norman Goodfellows

95% chardonnay (of which a small percentage is fermented in oak), 5%pinot noir. Residual sugar 8g/l A soft, creamy mousse with good length, a delicate cordon on the surface, and a lingering cascade of tiny bubbles. Bouquet : Crisp, rich, and elegant, nicely lingering and of fair intensity. Scents of apples and pears, and suggestions of tropical fruit; slight notes of spice. Palate :Appealingly crisp with an attractive acidity, soft and well balanced. Finishes with nuances of citrus fruit.

11. FRANCIACORTA BERSI SERLINI BRUT NV €17 (R185) – ex cellar

80% CHARDONNAY – 20% PINOT BLANC 20 months minimum on the lees in underground cellar 60.000 bottles produced Nose : particular bouquet with a mild fragrance of yeast and shades of brioche Taste : elegant and balanced, rich of fresh fruits qualities with notes of yeast and toasted bread