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Staying in pink fizz

© Cape Times Friday 20th April 2012

Autumn is definitely on its way here in Cape Town. All the usual things – leaves falling, temperature dipping, sun getting slower and slower to raise its head in the mornings – and most people are starting to think in terms of winter- warming wines, those hearty reds with rich meaty flavours and heaps of spice which we’ve all been avoiding for the past six hot months. Well I’m not. I’m going to talk about pink fizz instead.

Perhaps it’s as a result of my obsession with sabraging, but I seem to be drinking more and more fizz these days. It’s not just for celebrating, it’s not just to have with oysters and it’s definitely not just to do with sunshine, because I am increasingly finding that I open a bottle of Cap Classique in the evening for no real reason at all except that I’m thirsty – if you want to call me the Madame Bollinger of the Boland, that’s fine by me. Here’s a couple of interesting bits of info about fizz which not everyone may be aware of, plus a trio of excellent new pink fizzes, along with a new venue recently opened where you can enjoy bubbles to your heart’s content.

Firstly – why do I keep calling it ‘fizz’ or ‘bubbles’ and not simply ‘champagne’? Contrary to what most people think, Champagne is actually a region in France and not a style of wine, so the only bubblies which can be labelled as champagne must come from this area. In SA, we have a nice name for our top fizzes – Methode Cap Classique – which sounds much better than ‘premium sparkling wine’ as many other countries have to call it. An interesting little fact is that although the majority of sparkling wine is white, it’s actually traditionally made from two black grapes and only one white one. MCC’s are also the ‘sweetest’ of dry wines with anything up to 15g of residual sugar allowed for it to be labelled as dry, whereas still wines must have less than 5g.

Sometimes sparkling wines have no sugar or ‘dosage’ added to sweeten them up – the maiden vintage of Rickety Bridge’s Rosé MCC 2010 (R115 from the tasting room) was almost in this style, but at the last moment, winemaker Wynand Grobler decided to add just a touch of sweetness. This wine spent quite a long time in oak barrels so it’s one of the richer pink fizzes with lots of cranberries, strawberries and some lemons too. If you prefer light, fresh, fruity and uncomplicated, then you should check out the Allée Bleue MCC Rosé 2010 (R105 from the tasting room) which was served at their Harvest Bounty Lunch last weekend. Winemaker Van Zyl du Toit has opted for a lighter, easy-drinking style which goes down great with all the estate’s many wedding guests, but he’ll have to increase production soon as the newly-announced boutique hotel on the farm is sure to add extra pressure on already stretched sales.

The last pink fizz I’ve had recently should be enjoyed in situ, and – despite what I said at the start of this article – with oysters. The new Graham Beck Bubbly Bar has opened up at Steenberg Hotel. Named ‘Gorgeous’ after Mr Beck’s favourite term of endearment and staffed with Angelina Jolie look-alikes, it is glamour personified and the absolute best way of making you forget anything to do with winter warmers. The oysters are some of the finest I’ve ever had and the perfect partner can only be the 2009 Graham Beck Brut Rosé (R65 a glass at Gorgeous or R205 a bottle cellar door price). This summer thing ain’t over till this fat lady sings, and I promise you, whilst there’s still plenty of pink bubbles on the horizon, I won’t be singing a single wintery note for some time to come.

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