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Saturday, December 12, 2009


Christmas tasting awards top place to Villiera Monro Brut.

For our Christmas tasting, our private wine group met at Joan Seebregts’s house, where she presented us with South African Methode Cap Classique sparkling wines, made in the champagne style. A sampling of ten different wines before we adjourned for lunch at the nearby Spice restaurant in Windermere (Lilian Ngoyi) Road was a formidable challenge to palate and sobriety, but with little sips we survived.

In our scoring of the blind tasting, the marks were generally high and close, with narrow differences as one went down the scale of quality. Top place went to what was by far the most expensive wine, the Villiera Monro Brut, which sells at R124 a bottle. This was a 2004 vintage, a year in which, according to the Villiera cellar at Stellenbosch, the grapes were particularly suited to quality sparkling wine. This wine is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay (as were nearly all the wines in the tasting). Complex and delicious.

Second in our scoring was the Pierre Jourdan Brut Sauvage from Cabriere, Achim von Arnim’s well-known cellar at Fransch Hoek. This is a wine with a faintly pinkish tinge, a yeasty bouquet, a fine bubble and a refreshingly bone-dry taste. Price: about R100 a bottle.

In third place was another well-known name, the Graham Beck Brut, which is said to be a favourite wine of Michelle Obama, wife of the American president. This wine is crisp and dry, with a lemony freshness. It has a golden colour and a long-lasting bubble. About R73.

Next came a name that has been around for a long time, the Twee Jonge Gezellen Krone Borealis Brut, high quality and good value at about R70. It is from an estate at Tulbagh that has been bottling wine for the past 70 years. A classic kind of wine, elegant, biscuity, creamy.

This was followed in the scoring by the Long Mountain Chardonnay-Pinot Noir Cap Classique, from a cellar owned by the South African establishment of the international liquor company Pernod Ricard. A lively, lovely wine, with hints of citrus, gooseberry, honey, nuts and biscuit. About R70.

The other wines tasted were:

Villiera Special Dosage, unusual in that 15 percent pinotage is added to the pinot noir/chardonnay blend. The wine is made from slightly unripe healthy grapes and the dosage (sugar syrup) is slightly higher than usual. A crisp wine with a rather biscuity flavour. Price R49.

Steenberg 1682 Brut, from a distinguished and historic property at Constantia. Made from chardonnay grapes from the Robertson area. Crisp, refreshing, withy a fine mousse (bubble), apple aromas. R100.

Pongracz, one of the best-known of all the Cape sparklers, made by the Distell liquor company and named after Desiderius Pongracz, the Hungarian who became an important viticulturist in the Cape wine industry. Good mousse, pale oyster shell colour. R65.

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, another familiar name. This wine from a well-known Stellenbosch producer was a pioneer, South Africa’s first bottle-fermented sparkling wine. This 2007 vintage has an unusually high proportion of pinot noir, 58 percent. A lively, complex wine with a dry finish. R70.

Morgenhof Brut Reserve. Toasty bouquet, flavours of peaches and apples, and a good, lingering finish. R74.

All these wines made quite a mouthful before our lunch at Spice, which was first-rate. My wife and I have been going to this restaurant for years, and we have never had a disappointing meal there. – Michael Green