Smoked salmon, oysters, plump strawberries, Champagne, Cap Classique and ample sunshine… sounds like the perfect recipe for a great party, right? And it is – with the first weekend in December having become synonymous with Franschhoek’s bubbly celebration. While it’s always a fantastic social event, there seemed to be an extra edge to the 2009 event. Perhaps it was the residual festive effect of the 2010 World Cup draw having taken place the night before, but the festival seemed to really have ramped up a notch.
Yes it was warm – comfortably above 30 degrees – but the organisers had decided not to repeat last year’s folly of having ice sculptures rapidly melt in the sun’s glare… Instead, the focus was on shade, ample chilled bubbly to keep the punters happy, live music and providing the platform for people to relax and enjoy the weather and the fabulous setting of the Franschhoek monument surrounds.
And what’s not to enjoy when it’s obvious that South Africa’s Cap Classique producers have upped their game in a big way too. There were some stunning bubblies available for sampling and drinking.
Pieter Ferreira and the Graham Beck team have introduced a new Brut Rosé non vintage, a 55/45 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with delicious ripe berry flavour. Actually, there were a lot of pink bubblies in evidence – and heaps of festival goers buying them by the bottle to enjoy at leisure with a platter of smoked salmon. Morena, Villiera, Ross Gower, Weltevrede and Simonsig, Methode Cap Classique pioneers, all had pink sparklers but the one which impressed most was that of John Loubser. Loubser, the GM and cellarmaster at Steenberg (which makes the 1682 bubbly) has his own range, Silverthorn, and has added a second wine to his portfolio. Joining The Green Man is the Genie, a Shiraz bubbly which has the palest blush of pink and is utterly delicious.
The alluvial soils of Rawsonville produced my second “find” of the day: Du Preez’s Hendrik Lodewyk Cap Classique. Hennie Du Preez told me it’s a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend but by that stage I was beyond making notes of proportions or even time on the lees. I think it was 24 months – but I could be wrong!
It’s rewarding to see people enjoying the event and making the most of SA’s stunning sparklers which offer amazing value for the quality produced. Little surprise that this is one of the biggest growth areas of SA wine…