Downham Market wine expert on South African Cap Classiques like Graham Beck in Wine O'Clock column
I was planning to offer some suggestions on BBQ-friendly reds this week, but I had my attention – not to mention my heart – stolen by other wines.
As regular readers of the column may have gathered, I’m a bit of a fizz fan and when I joined the trade I had visions of cellar wall to cellar wall Krug. Alas I soon discovered most trade members have Rolls-Royce tastes on Mini incomes.
So, I went on the hunt for sparkling wines from other countries, and South African sparkling wines, Cap Classique, provided a delightful revelation.
Here were wines made in the same way as Champagne, using the same grapes that were brilliant and affordable. It’s a love affair that’s lingered.
Thirty years later South Africa’s Graham Beck (Majestic £14.99) remains our house wine, and so when I was given a chance to taste a range of other Cap Classique, I jumped at the chance. The following are the highlights from an exceptionally high-quality line-up, but if you see a Cap Classique in a shop or a restaurant list, take my advice: try it. You won’t be disappointed.
First up, a winery whose reds turned my head when I was at Harrods, Simonsig. There’s a word for wines like the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2019 (Lea & Sandeman £12.95), and that word is joy.
From its apple blossom, coconut, and yeast nose, through its refined, richly fruited palate of red apples and pears to its savoury biscuit finish, this is an exceptional wine for the money.
Next up is the Kleine Zalze Brut NV (Vinum £15.85). This demonstrates the range of styles of Cap Classique. Whereas the Simonsig is all about richness, the Kleine Zalze has a much fresher, cleaner profile. White gold in colour, the tiny bubbles elevate notes of pears, green apples, and melon, while in the mouth, there are richer tones of guava, brioche, and honey. John Platter (South Africa’s leading wine critic) rated Kleine Zalze as his top performing winery of the year. On the evidence of this, you can see why.
Boschendal is another great name of South African wine, though for reasons that elude me (maybe it’s been trying to elude me? Some wines do that!) this was my first encounter with the Boschendal Brut NV (Simply Wines Direct £15.99), but it won’t be the last.
Another classy, classically styled sparkling wine, it offers masses of creamily tinted white berries, baked apples and just a touch of strawberry sweetness. This is one of those wines that remind you why God invented magnums. Bottles aren’t big enough.
And finishing with a flourish, we have the Laborie Blanc de Blanc 2015 (Aitken Wines £14.50).
Mature, vintage fizz for under £15; do I even need to share my notes? You should try this on principle. Well, without wishing to spoil the surprise, this is a mighty mouthful. The nose is a blend of smoked white fruits and citrus, themes that continue to the palate, where they are joined by peaches in syrup and creamy yeast. Who said a Blanc de Blanc can’t age? Oh yes, me. Well, where would the fun be in being right all the time?