Yesterday, I undertook the always interesting exercise of comparing the effect of different dosages on a bubbly that’s about to be finally bottled. My parents-in-law Naas and Jenny Ferreira own Klein Optenhorst, a property in the Bovlei valley of Wellington where they have created an internationally renowned garden, open to the public in October each year or by appointment (tel 021 864 1210). There is also a 0,25ha vineyard of Pinot Noir, previously vinified into (a somewhat idiosyncratic) still wine but in 2009 made into Cap Classique by Graham Beck’s Pieter Ferreira, married to Naas’s niece Ann. It’s not what you know, but who you know…
The 2009 is now ready for disgorgement and Ferreira showed us three versions of the wine: one without dosage, one with 10ml of liqueur d’expédition (equivalent to a residual sugar of approximately 8g/l) and one with 15ml (equivalent to 11g/l).
I always tend to prefer the driest possible rendition but Ferreira advised that bubbly with a high Pinot content can handle more residual sugar to offset the earthy flavours the wine develops over time (as opposed to the other great bubbly grape Chardonnay, which becomes more honeyed). He revealed, for instance, that the Graham Beck Brut Rosé Non-Vintage has a lower RS than the Vintage version (9.5g/l vs. 11.5g/l), on account of the former being intended for earlier drinking than the latter.
The ultimate consensus was that the version with 10ml of liqueur d’expédition was the most balanced, and a discussion regarding pricing ensued. It seems the wine will sell at R150 a bottle from the farm with release set for this year’s Open Garden in October. “You don’t need to be shy about pricing. It’s a vineyard with a reasonable track record, hopefully my winemaking credentials are established and the garden means you can tell a story,” said Ferreira. In addition, volumes are small: only 1 500 bottles in the case of the ’09.
The wine shows delicate strawberry fruit, just a hint of earthiness, a fine mousse and fresh acidity. A very elegant offering, if you will allow me to speak on behalf of the family.
Ferreira seemed chuffed with his efforts because he promptly opened a bottle of Cuvée Clive 2003, the R400-a-bottle Graham Beck flagship bubbly, topical for having been the bubbly of choice at Johann Rupert’s recent 60th birthday party. I am advised that 18 months on from launch, two-thirds of the 2 250 bottle production has already been sold, all from cellar door. It is showing very well with an attractively developed nose but still fresh as a daisy on the palate.
Ferreira also showed us a pre-release sample of Raconteur 2007, the new top-end red blend from Graham Beck. The wine consists of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon and 34% Shiraz, and spent 27 months in new oak, and he describes it as the product of “cherry-picking” the very best fruit from their vineyards in Firgrove, Stellenbosch. It’s modern in the best sense: rich but balanced with great fruit expression, soft but sufficient acidity and fine tannins. Due for release in September, cost per bottle from the cellar will be R235.