When it comes to bottle-fermented sparkling wine, the conventional wisdom is that local producers will never struggle to achieve ripeness relative to Champagne but retaining the same freshness is always going to be difficult.
Yesterday a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut-LP as an aperitif and then Kaapse Vonkel 2005 from Stellenbosch producer Simonsig with a lunch of cold ham, boiled baby potatoes and a green salad.
The Laurent-Perrier is typically a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier and spends three years on the lees, and was all about freshness purity and elegance. Score: 16/20.
The 2005 vintage of Kaapse Vonkel won the Amorim Cork Challenge in 2009 and in a slight deviation from the house style which normally sees Pinot Noir the dominant variety, saw Chardonnay to the fore at 55%, Pinot Noir coming in at 41% and Pinot Meunier at 4%, time on lees 16 months. Iexpected it to have more heft than the Laurent-Perrier but would this be at the expense of finesse?
The wine did indeed have more richness and breadth with overt yeasty, leesy notes but could hardly be called clumsy. I suppose the most striking contrast was that the acidity on the Laurent-Perrier was zippy and invigorating while that on the Simonsig was somewhat hard. Still, a minor quibble and though stylistically different, nothing much to separate them in sheer quality and so a score of 16/20 for the Simonsig, too.