food

top of the pops

As much as we like to bash Valentine’s Day here in the HL office, with all its cynical marketing, cloying chocolatey dripping everything, rip-off roses, horrible set menus in restaurants and – oh, we could go on – we’re actually real romantics at heart and will more than likely be partial to a glass or two of chilled bubbly at the very least, should we be lovingly coaxed. Not that we generally ever need a proper excuse to pop open a bottle. Or think that, if you’re a couple, you need a special day to make each other feel adored and appreciated. So there. Whether you’re smugly toasting your good fortune while staring into the eyes of your soul mate or resolutely single but still fancy a ‘let’s celebrate anyway’ bottle of fizz, these Méthode Cap Classiques are bound to hit the spot… SOMETHING SPECIAL Charles Fox Brut Rosé 2010 (R220) Samples of the elegant MCCs from new Elgin producer Charles Fox Cap Classique landed in our office late last year and received a resounding thumbs up when popped open at Friday drinks, especially from those of us with a taste for the French stuff. And for good reason. Proprietors Charles and Zelda Fox have actively pursued the creation of a French-style bubbly, and recruited Reims-based Champagne specialist Nicolas Follet to help them in their quest. While we also rated the Charles Fox Cap Classique Brut (R200), it’s the Brut Rosé (95 per cent Pinot Noir and five per cent Pinot Meunier) that really stands out. Look out for both at boutique wine outlets or order from charlesfox.co.za TOPS FOR STYLE Desiderius Pongrácz 2008 (R225) It’s got to be said upfront. We think the fluted bottle is so very beautiful it’s almost reason enough to splash out on. But seriously, this is a local fizz worth flashing on your fancy little beach sundowner expedition as much for its contents. Unlike the ‘just plain (but perfectly good) Pongrácz’, Desiderius is only made in exceptional vintages rather than every year – its 2003 predecessor won armfuls of awards, including the trophy for best bottle-fermented sparkling wine at the 2012 International Wine and Spirit Challenge. Comprising 70 per cent Chardonnay and 30 per cent Pinot Noir, it’s rich and complex, with all those yeasty baked-bread characteristics that develop over time. PALATE PLEASER Steenberg Brut 1682 2011 (R130) A perennial favourite in these parts, the 1682 Brut is one of those MCCs we just can’t get enough of, perhaps because it’s really easy to drink and is priced so you can buy several bottles at a time. It has the teensiest bubbles, for starters, and a perfect balance of freshness and creamy fullness on the palate. Made from 100 per cent Chardonnay, it’s at its best when slurped with naked Saldanha oysters, such as those served at the wonderful Bistro 1682 on the Constantia estate. In fact, cancel all your other plans and make a date for tapas there now! Bookings (021-713-2211) are, of course, essential. ROSY CHEER Graham Beck Brut Rosé (R105) Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira, Graham Beck’s affable cellarmaster, is so-named for excellent reason – he’s a legend in the realm of Méthode Cap Classique production, and the proof lies in the estate’s formidable range of top scoring bubblies. The serious Brut Blancs de Blancs and super-dry Brut Zero rate among our favourites, but this fun (but not inelegant) non-vintage rosé (60 per cent Chardonnay, 40 per cent Pinot Noir) with its subtle red berry flavours fits the bill for anytime sipping or enjoying with food – especially sushi. Salmon roses could well have been invented with this pairing in mind. PRESTIGE CUVEE Villiera Monro Brut 2007 (R165) There’s no doubt Villiera makes some of the best sparkling wines in SA, any of which would go down a treat for a special occasion. But tops of them all is this family estate’s prestige cuvée, the Monro Brut, produced only when conditions conspire to create the best possible bubbly. This vintage was awarded five stars in Platter’s 2013 edition, as well as the Regional Trophy as the best South African sparkling wine over £10 at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards. A blend of 34 per cent Pinot Noir, 51 per cent Chardonnay and 15 per cent Pinot Meunier, it’s a whopper of a fizz with rich toasty flavours that develop finesse and complexity on the aftertaste. GUILT-FREE QUAFFER Pierre Jourdan Brut Sauvage (R120) This non-vintage MCC from Haute Cabrière, the Franschhoek wine estate famous for its Saturday morning sabrage demonstrations and delicious bubbly fuelled brunches (among other things), is a particular favourite owing to the fact that it’s bone dry, delectably so (‘oyster dry’ is how they describe it). A classic blend of 60 per cent Chardonnay and 40 per cent Pinot Noir, it’s a ‘zero dosage’ bubbly, meaning no sugar was added. It won’t appeal to everyone, but its more natural taste and lack of extra kilojoules will make it a winner with many. Guilt-free bubbly? Thanks, we’ll have another...