Happy 75th birthday to Sheila Camerer tomorrow. So what bubbly is appropriate for celebrating 3/4 of a century? My column in The Times today gives a few options.
Barack Obama famously celebrated his historic presidential victory with Graham Beck bubbly. Even if the Beck brand is now owned by racehorse breeder Antony, who lives in Kentucky, a state that has voted solidly Republican since the ’50s.
But bubbly is probably not a biggie for Obama’s successor as Donald Trump, somewhat surprisingly, does not drink. One of the few traits he shares with our own president. Trump teetotalism comes in spite of owning a winery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Although, as the state voted 50-44 for Hillary Clinton, perhaps Ant’s marketers have a window of opportunity with the notoriously thin-skinned president presumptive.
As thin-skinned as a Pinot Noir grape, I wonder? The classic Champagne blend is of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which poses a conundrum for followers of John Platter’s wine label guide. The 2017 edition includes no five-star fizzy stunnas among the many hundreds tasted. Yet 17 Chardonnays get the whole planetarium, along with a trio of Pinot Noirs. A case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts, perhaps?
Uncalibrated tasting panels more likely as the Cape’s bubbly has never been in better shape. Top of my pops is Glass Memoires 2012 from Uitkyk on the Simonsberg. Released on December 10 at R140 from the tasting room or the Vinoteque (www.vinoteque.co.za/collections/uitkyk), it’s as drizabone with fresh baguettes on the nose. Be sure to lay in stock as the farm is up for sale as owner Distell moves downmarket to 4th Street and domination of the sweet end of shebeen service.
The best budget bubbly around is also from Stellenbosch. Kleine Zalze Brut Non Vintage is R89 from www.getwine.co.za and delivery, as always, is free. Two thirds Chardonnay to one third Pinot, it gets the Full Monty in my book and looks like it costs double, making it great for bluffing.
If R89 is too pricey, you can halve the price by venturing out to the wrong side of the mountain. To Slanghoek, the valley of snakes. Slanghoek Vonkel Brut is R48 and Tinashe Nyamudoka, sommelier at the Test Kitchen, which some rate as the 22nd best restaurant in the world, chose this bubbly blind at a recent tasting of Breedekloof wines.
Ten cases costs the same as dinner for one at the Kitchen, which confirms just what kind of deals are on offer from the SA cellar. Or how expensive the top end of Cape Town dining has become.
This snake may not be made in the traditional Champenoise style of secondary ferment in the bottle (the bubbles are added in a SodaStream-style process) but who really cares?
Great for cocktails (add a splash of brandy in a narrow flute with a cherry and jaunty umbrella), the crisp apple acidity makes it suitable for foie gras, ceviche and carpaccio or any starter at the Kitchen. It also works with grilled calamari tentacles (sometimes called witches hats) or wild mushroom soup.