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Wednesday, December 15, 2010


For our Christmas gathering our private wine-tasting group were served, appropriately enough, seven sparkling wines from here and abroad. The hostess, Joan Seebregts, had gone to considerable trouble to find a wide range of bubblies, and they were all enthusiastically received.

Before the tasting proper we chatted over a preliminary drink, a very pleasant Beyerskloof Rosé Brut, from a Stellenbosch cellar that is famous for its pinotage. This sparkling rosé is made by the Charmat method, fermentation of the wine in a tank rather than the bottle fermentation of champagne and Methode Cap Classique, and it was none the worse for that. It had a lovely pink colour, a lively bubble, and a pleasantly crisp strawberry flavour.

For the tasting itself we sampled six wines. The tasting was blind and the scoring was generally high, with top marks going to another Stellenbosch wine, the Villiera Monro Brut, which is generally regarded as being one of South Africa’s top Cap Classique wines. It is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, and this was the 1999 vintage. It had aged exceptionally well, with a lovely gold colour and a full apple flavour.

Another vintage of the same wine, Villiera Monro Brut, also scored well. This was the 2004 vintage, a year in which the grapes were said to be of particularly good quality. This wine spent four years on the lees (yeast sediment). The retail price of the Monro Brut is about R145 a bottle.

Two authentic French champagnes featured in the tasting and were much admired. One was the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, a very famous wine, light gold in colour, aroma of apples, lemon and biscuit, with flavours of apples and white grapes. Retail price is about R400 a bottle.

Comtesse Alexia is a French champagne imported by Woolworths. It is a blend of pinot noir (60%), chardonnay (25) and pinot meunier (15). The result is a lovely fresh type of wine with a fine bubble and with citrus, berry and yeasty aromas and flavours. This is good value at R230 bottle.

The other bubblies tasted were Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad, a Spanish sparkling chardonnay with an aroma of toast and pears, rather unusual; and Prosecco, from the Veneto area of Northern Italy. This wine, specially produced for Woolworths, is made from the prosecco grape and is light (11% alcohol), with a fine bubble, a bright yellow colour, and a dry aroma and taste of apple and pear. It sells at R70 a bottle and would be a very pleasant wine for the festive season.

We adjourned for a leisurely lunch at Spice restaurant in Windermere Road, and a wine that I specially enjoyed over lunch was the Long Mountain 2007 Reserve Pinotage. Excellent, and a far cry from the rude, rough pinotages of long ago. – Michael Green