Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blancs 2001 – and a toast to Barbara!




I’m sure I’ve had this rant before, but why is it that people constantly overlook New World sparkling wines as an affordable alternative to Champagne, especially in these credit crunched times??

I understand why those of us who grew up with 5th Avenue Cold Duck and Cinzano Spumante (both alcopop-like saccharine carbonated sparklers) might think that South African sparkling wine is terminally uncool but people, I bring glad tidings:  things have moved on!

The key to finding a sparkler that can rival the French stuff in terms of quality is to pay close attention to how it’s made.  There are three ways in which you can make sparkling wine, in ascending order of quality:

–    make a white wine and then carbonate it – inject it with CO2 bubbles, much in the same way that you’d make a Sodastream drink back in the 1980s.

–    make a white wine and then allow it to ferment a second time in large tanks (called the charmat method) until it develops bubbles, and then bottle it.

–    make a white wine, bottle it with some extra yeast, and then allow it to ferment in the bottles, turning them regularly and storing them at an increasing angle until they are virtually upside down, in order to collect the spent yeast in the neck of the bottle.  Then freeze the cap of yeast, open the bottle and remove it, top up the liquid and seal it with a cork and a wire cage (in South Africa, these are labelled Methode Cap Classique).

Are we getting an inkling as to why the three methods are also listed in order of ascending price…?




Anyway, on the day we moved into our new house we opened a rather special bottle that we’d been saving for just this occasion – vintage Graham Beck 2001 Brut Blanc de Blancs, probably my facourite South African sparkler of all time.  This 100% Chardonnay bubbly has the finest, tingling mousse and a classic savoury toasty flavour, but does not compromise on fruit.  Perfect for celebrating momentous occasions… which brings me to my reason for this post.  The lovely and inspirational Barbara has recently battled cancer and survived a particularly gruelling round of chemo.  Chemo done, she has declared that TODAY is the day that she cracks open the Champagne that she’s been saving!  And what better way to show solidarity with our dear friend than for fellow bloggers to post a little toast to her today.

So here’s to you Barbara – enjoy that first glass of bubbles.  You are an inspiration :)



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  1. says

    I raise my glass to Barbara!
    When I got married here in the UK (33 yrs ago – ulp!) we had SA sparkling wine not champagne – Twee Jongezellen as I recall. I do like Graham Beck’s sparklers but if truth be told, my favourite is Pongracz closely followed by Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel. I would have chosen a SA cap classic wine for my daughter’s wedding next weekend, but the groom’s father was O.C. wines, and despite being an Australian he has opted for all French wines – the champers is Diebolt-Vallois a Cramant which I had not come across before but it slips down a treat!

  2. says

    I love Graham Beck sparkling wine, it’s one of my absolute favourites!
    I don’t have anything bubbly in my glass right now but here’s to Barbara :)

  3. says

    I found your food blog going through a few links. Glad I ran into it. Didn’t know that the food blog/recipe community was so big online. I love your posts!
    I was wondering if you would like to exchange links. I’ll drop yours on my site and you drop mine on yours. Email at or stop by my site and drop a comment. Let me know if you would like to do a link exchange.

  4. says

    Oh Jeanne this is so kind of you. Thank you…and I agree about new world sparkling wines. Both NZ and Australia also produce some great ones. I’ve never seen any SA ones in the shops but will keep an eye out now. been too sick to keep up with blog reading but am feeling better and better by the day so expect me back soon

  5. says

    We went to Graham Beck and bought some of this for our wedding, which was just down the road in Robertson. It really is the best and the only sparkling wine I really like. We still have it for special occasions.
    Cincin to Barbara and to you!

  6. says

    Being Australian I am in total support of your advocacy of new world sparkling (tried Chandon NV from Oz – made by the house of Moet and excellent sparkling?) but I have to say one of the great things about living in the UK is how cheap actual top French champagne is here. Plenty of opportunities for bubbles.

  7. Ash says

    Cheers Barbara!
    Jeanne, thanks for reminding me about the Sodastream. I had successfully put it out of my mind. Remember how horrible the cola was from those things? :)
    Pongracz is my favourite too. Prosecco is very en vogue here in Holland and being so classy (not) I like pink bubbles too :)