“So, do you know anything about Champagne?” asked disarmingly frank Inke Gouws, importer of the stuff at her husband’s Wynhuis restaurant in Newlands on Friday afternoon. I ducked the question by shamelessly resorting to name-dropping, mentioning that SA Airways had twice flown me to Champagne to serve on a panel that chose the stuff with luminaries like Tom Stevenson.
On the last occasion, I stayed at Michelin 3-star dive Boyer les Crayères in Reims where a saucy French maid served me truffled fluffy scrambled eggs in a fluffy four-poster bed for breakfast. Autres temps, autres moeurs as SAA CEO Coleman Andrews used to say when not selling-off SAA spare parts for currency profits, telling his board he was making record profits for the airline.
Inke had assembled a panel of bubbly boffins to taste 21 boutique Champagnes and Cremants she was thinking of adding to her small but perfectly formed sales inventory. I was very much the dilettante on the panel as there were two winemakers: Lorna Hughes and Jérôme Barret, plus Allan Mullins, who buys bubbles for Woolies and Jonathan Steyn who performs the same function for Belthazar rounded off by Christine Rudman and Fiona McDonald, probably the two best tasters for Platter, the sighted wine guide. Which is how the tasting was conducted: sighted.
Which was a pity, as when I saw that wine #4, the Parigot Blanc de Blanc was a mere Cremant, I narrowed my eyes, pursed my lips and deducted a point for pedigree. My rationale being that punters buy wine sighted and would a non-Champagne really be viable at a shade over R200 a bottle? Jérôme noted that Parigot is slang for Parisian, so perhaps it’s an in-joke in Savigny les Beaune, where they make the stuff.
My top fizzes all came from the same producer: Henri Giraud who makes judicious use of oak in his cuvées, which should appeal to ANC Youth League president Julius Malema who famously got a G for Matric woodwork (standard grade). The wines were a marvel of richness and seamless elegance and cheaper than the Moët beloved of the ANCYL and other passengers on the national gravy trains and planes.
Thanks for the review, never have tried Henri’s stuff….will have to check for it locally.