Enjoyers of Champagne, Cap Classique and other fine renditions of bottle-fermented sparkling wine do not enjoy their drinks in silence. Once a bottle of fizz is popped, moods rise and inhibitions fall away. The wine gushes into the glass, foaming and bright with miniscule beads of intoxicating joy, and you feel good about life even before taking the first sip. I’d even smile while pulling on a glass of fizz with an anti-vaxxer or a lefty canceller of cultural artefacts from the University of Cape Town’s media studies department.
Having just checked into Tintswalo Atlantic Lodge above Hout Bay after a taxing flight from the northern bits of Africa, I heard much revelry from down below in the restaurant area. Now and again, the hollow pop of a cork convinced me there was some serious drinking of fizz going on. And so it was. There was an awards function for Cap Classique happening, and despite my jet-lag and my body still covered in desert dust that had accumulated on the camel ride to the airport that morning, I wished my place at aforementioned revelry had been secured.
But my time would come. And later, the revellers gone, I staked a place on the Tintswalo deck surrounded by the sound of sea and the aroma of kelp, wet granite ocean rock and salt flowers. For sure, I was up for a glass of Cap Classique. But had not pre-empted being allowed access to the wines that had been the subject of celebration, these having won gongs and trophies at aforementioned wine competition.
A joyous drink, a celebratory one does not permit for any beating around the bush. So, I will jump right in to announce that a Cap Classique from Kleine Zalze, the Vintage Brut 2015, did not win this year’s trophy for Best Wine on Show for nothing. It is truly one of the most astounding pots of fizz outside of Epernay, and if it wanted my attention, it sure got it. I hope this wine, when judged, found itself in the latter stages of the line-up. Had it presented itself to the judges in an early round of judging, it would have killed all comers right there and then.
The Klein Zalze Vintage Brut constitutes 60% Chardonnay and 40 % Pinot Noir, and quite frankly, I don’t know why the Cape still bothers with anything but these two varieties in the Cap Classique category. The two grapes were put on earth by a God who wished for them to evolve into bottle-fermented sparkling wine. So why bother with foreign elements such as Chenin Blanc, Colombar and – heaven forbid – Cabernet Franc in pursuit of a classy category such as Cap Classique?
Klein Zalze Brut 2015 falls golden and honey-hued in the glass with definite developed character on the nose: a proofing slab of sour-dough kneaded with finely ground wheat from Caledon, slivers of cured ginger and a whack of honey-suckle that would lead a worker-bee to apply for overtime. The beads of bubbles shot perkily to the top of the glass with alert accuracy.
One sip, and the wine made me ravenous. I wanted more, and I wanted it all. The five years’ lees-contact, in bottle, provided regal and discernible texture, causing the wine to lie on the mouth like a peregrine falcon that had found its perfect perch. Here, flavours struck hard, and they struck true. Green apple, warmed by a mid-day sun. Toast spread with salty butter and topped with fynbos honey. Barnacles from the North Atlantic, those of the sweet fleshiness to off-set the pronounced salty tang. Clouds of alluring forest flavours hanging in pools between the yellow-woods and elm. Deliciously drinkable, with a crisply weighted and perfumed finish.
It is a world-class fizz and I’ll be taking some to Epernay for Christmas to have with oysters and a Bresse capon.
Also from the 2015 vintage came the winner of the competition’s Blanc de Blancs section, namely Mariëtte Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc (sic) from Stofberg Family Vineyards in the Cape’s Breedekloof region.
The wine appears pale-straw, still in that terrific stage of youth when cares are few and energy abundant. To the nose the wine was shy, but hit the mouth like torrents of spring water arriving unexpectedly in the Mohave Desert. It leads with freshness, followed by a pitch-perfect harmony of developed fruit and lap-jerking edginess in its citrus-mineral core. Runs of gushing mousse are almost audible as the wine fills, splashes, roars and breaks, elevating its presence to those celestial reaches the great monk Dom Perignon saw when he first created bottle-fermented sparkling wine.
Taste it, and out comes ripe, browned loquat a whack of Key limes underscored by a feather-like, wispy delicateness, all backed by the cool and spirited abundance of sparkling grace.
Experiencing half-a-bottle of each of these wines, as the low breakers stirred below me and the sea shone under a mauve night-sky, it felt good to call this country my new home. I ate sparingly, but well, and slept until the next day broke with promise to see more good things.
- Lafras Huguenet
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