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Isn’t inexpensive fizz one of the most difficult categories? I was reminded of this recently when a fellow Master of Wine rang me, at his wits' end, trying to find a suitable non-champagne that would pass muster with the new Lord Mayor of London for his official entertaining. Arguably he should have contemplated pushing the boat out a bit and bought the best of English sparkling wine but they were probably above his budget.
Cava is cheap and when it’s below champagne price levels it too often tastes it (though that Palau I recommended in June was an exception). Top-quality Italian fizz can be very fine indeed but again it costs just as much as its direct counterparts from Champagne. Crémant de Limoux is improving every year – or perhaps I just mean, rather unfairly, that the Mauzac component is now virtually indistinguishable. I’m not utterly convinced that Chenin Blanc nor, especially, Riesling are at their finest in bubbly form – although I did come across a very convincing sparkling Saumur, Le Grand Saumur 2001 Chapin & Landais recently (just £7.95 from Stone, Vine & Sun who have just won lots of awards at the International Wine Challenge, though they have already sold out of this vintage).
The wine I recommended to my MW friend was this new offering from Graham Beck whose regular Brut is virtually South African for fine fizz. It’s the most beautiful Krug rosé colour, very pale salmon indeed, comes in a most acceptably tasteful bottle which will surely find favour with City trenchermen and women and, best of all, tastes worth every penny of its £9.99 price tag. It’s made up of 70 percent Pinot Noir with the rest Chardonnay grapes, whole-bunch pressed together and grown on Robertson’s famous limestone.
How on earth they manage to make a wine this relatively fine and delicate in a climate that hot I can only guess at. Presumably they pick the grapes as soon as they’ve got up from their Christmas dinner etc etc The wine was made ultra traditionally and matured on lees for 36 months. The nose is already nicely evolved and the whole package is clean and well balanced, with about the same sweetness level as a typical champagne.
To be snobbish about it, I’d have to admit that Graham Beck is hardly the most poetic wine name I have encountered, but I like the sound of another pink wine recently bottled at this winery, No Way Rosé, the work according to the 2004 Platter Guide (www.platterwineguide.com) of Graham Beck’s 10 year-old son William. Don’t tell anyone in the US where even those well into their 20s run the risk of being asked to show an ID before being served a beer.
This useful new wine is currently available in the UK at around £9.99 Bibendum, Bin Two, Esk View Wines, Everich, Excellars.co.uk, Magnum and Off the Vine. It’s slightly less expensive at Capitalwine.net of Albany, NY in the US. Find a host of importers all over the globe at http://www.grahambeckwines.co.za/buy.htm