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Rather avant garde?

© Cape Times Friday 30th December 2011
Everyone loves champagne. Well, don’t they? Perhaps it’s just me, but I thought that the opportunity to open a bottle of bubbly was something anybody would rush to do. Whether it’s ‘proper’ champagne (the French are highly protective of the actual word ‘champagne’ leaving us to call our home-grown fizzes either Methode Cap Classique or merely Sparkling Wine), or any of the many other options, when it comes to bubbles, there really is something for everyone. Here, just in time for New Year’s Eve, are a few suggestions for people who think they’re too fussy for fizz.

“It’s too dry.” Brut on a sparkling wine label doesn’t mean it’s made from aftershave, it means it’s dry, and even though ‘dry’ MCC’s can have up to three times the amount of sugar as a still wine, many of them are just too acidic for a lot of drinkers. So if you have a sweet tooth, here is a pink which might just please your palate this year. Naughty Girl Sparkling Rose (R49.99) is made in Worcester by Alvi’s Drift Vineyards and is a cheeky, fun alternative to drier styles of wine. It’s made from mainly Muscat grapes with some Colombard and Malbec and sweet but still quite refreshing with a helpful low alcohol of 7.5%. Check out the Marilyn Monroe-type label too!

“It’s too sweet.” Most MCC’s get some sugar and grape juice added just before the cork is inserted and the wire net put on – but not all. Wines without any ‘dosage’ as this sweetener is termed, are becoming very fashionable. Try Pierre Jourdan Brut Sauvage from Haute Cabriere or Villiera’s Brut Natural, both of which are widely available. Or the new wine from Graham Beck – the Brut Zero (R205) which has spent 5 years on the lees and is almost savoury in its intensity. Smaller producers who also eschew any added sweetness include Carla Pauw’s Saltare, Sterhuis and Ross Gower Wines.

“I only drink red wine.” Well that’s okay, don’t let it put you off enjoying some fizz! There are growing numbers of sparkling red wines around – at the entry-level end of things you can enjoy the La Chanson Naturally Delicate Red from J.C.Le Roux (R42.95) which is fizzy, frothy and fun or if you want to see just how good bubbly reds can be, try Nitida’s Matriarch in Red MCC (R115) which is made from Shiraz and offers concentrated plummy fruit with some smoky, raising-y hints.

“I only drink French Champagne.” Really? Are you single and can I have your phone number? I personally believe that MCC’s in this country are right up there with the finest France can offer, but sometimes a little glamour doesn’t do any harm. Chabivin (www.chabivin.co.za) import the Guy Charbaut range which starts at around R400 a bottle – I especially loved the pink which is full of star anise and cinnamon. Great Domaines (www.greatdomaines.co.za) import De La Motte Champagne which starts at around R550 a bottle. And if you have more money than sense, you can buy the über-exclusive Salon 1999 (R2,800) which has been 11 years on the lees. The reason I say ‘no sense’ is because despite being the oldest wine I’m recommending today, it is far from ready and it would be an absolute crime to drink it now! But believe me, your patience will be rewarded.

“It’s too expensive.” When you think of all the processes and time involved in making an MCC, it’s actually not that expensive, but never fear – there is more than one way of getting bubbles into bottles, and it doesn’t need to cost the earth. Van Loveren are renowned for their good value wines and have a very good sparkling Sauvignon Blanc which costs a meagre R34.95 – a bargain if ever there was one! Most of the J.C. Le Roux range comes in around the early R40’s mark and if you don’t drink alcohol, you can enjoy Mont d’Or Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Grape Juice for R29.95. But if even this is too much for you, here is a secret tip for New Year’s Eve – buy yourself an inexpensive bottle of still wine and whack it through your Sodastream – instant fizz at a rock-bottom price!

Whichever kind of bubbles you choose, I hope you have a good New Year’s Eve party. Drive safely (I’ll be using Goodfellas to get me home, www.gfellas.co.za ) and I look forward to sharing more wines with you in 2012.

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