Spontaneous wine moments always turn-out the most memorable. Like an unexpected glimpse of a vividly hued wild flower growing next to a crumbling farm wall, the surprisingly pungent scent of baked croissants as you pass a non-descript down-town bakery or the sudden scream of a fish-eagle slicing the early-morning air of central Stellenbosch, an unplanned sip turns an amicable wine experience into one great and memorable.
It was a Cape day too hot for autumn, but also too pretty for work or professional structure when I set off on a wine-land drive. On the spur of the moment and in the Franschhoek vicinity, the desire for a mouth of cool sparkling wine hit me like the need hear some Led Zeppelin after a few days’ Vow of Silence in a Cluny Abbey.
Le Lude, the new kid on the winelands’ Cap Classique block, was straight ahead from the Huguenot Monument where I had stopped to pay homage to my brave forefathers who had arrived in the Cape back in 1688 to bring some French culture to the dull Dutch goings-on the region had been subjected to since Jan van Riebeeck dropped anchor 36 years before.
The name Le Lude has been doing the rounds in the wine fraternity for the past few months. A specialist Cap Classique outfit, it is headed-up by Paul Gerber who is an unashamed prophet, proponent and propagandist for all things bubbly in the wine sense. There is also the agrafe method, with Le Lude the first Cape bubbly producer to do its lees-time on cork and close the bottle with the unique metallic staple after which the method is named.
At Le Lude’s classic, airy and light tasting room I bumped in to Paul himself, and before I could say “dosage”, we were seated at a table with two bottles of Le Lude, the Brut and Rosé.
The first thing that hit me about the two wines – these being the non-agrafes – was that they were poured well-chilled. This talk of sparkling wine, Champagne and white wine not being sipped too cold is bandied about at wine-nerd classes, but makes no sense. For unless you have been French-kissing an Eskimo or singing Enya songs, one’s mouth is a warmish 37°C. Thus, for heaven’s sake, a cold wine might be cool on entering, but its temperature will increase as exposed to the wet warmth of one’s mouth, releasing the required level of esters and flavours that allow the drink in question to show its potential.
Back to the Le Lude, two Cap Classiques before me. One a pale gold Brut with an ever-so slight emerald tint. The other a Rosé, perfectly sketched to a colour drifting between the skin of ripe Iberian onions and the soft pale-pink one finds in the belly-region of a freshly killed wild salmon.
I love sparkling wine, naturally fermented and made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as they should be. I love the zest, energy-giving fizziness. The cool, iced-sabre thrust of freshness focussed by layers of fruit and flavours floral and blossom and vast meadows.
Both the Le Lude Brut and the Rosé share a clean, decisive purity. No showy baked brioche or broken biscuit. Not a hint of overdone fruitiness, so fashionable a tool of appealing to mass-market consumers that even the Champagne houses are syrupping their dosages.
These wines are pure as November snow, whilst at the same time showing intriguing, inviting characteristics and true craftmenship.
Le Lude Brut, Chardonnay-driven, bears citrus and white stone-fruit from the attack to mid-palate, while the 36 months lees contact comes to the fore with a mature, personality-giving savoury finish. And it is, truly, delicious, this mouth of bracing, tingling bubbles all tangy lemon and grapefruit leading to a very interesting and alluring spot of salt and ocean as the sip ends.
The Rosé benefits from a dose of Pinot Noir wine made especially for the base blend, adding structure and texture without overpowering the overall character, which is another perfectly balanced Cap Classique.
Here, the pink wine is broader and has more bass than the tuning-fork precision of the Brut. A whack of just cleaned fresh oyster shell is evident among the cool sparkling world of red fruit and rose petals, a wine once again crystal clear, pure and showing finesse and refinement which brings out the Classique in Cap.
These are fantastically joyous wines, lusty and full of class, pedigree and royalty. Their memory lives on, and goes to show that one must never stop wishing to expect the unexpected.
– Emile Joubert
Enjoyed this article?
Subscribe and never miss a post again.