Last week a special friend and I visited the Cap Classique Cellar Le Lude in Franschhoek, having become dedicated drinkers of this sparkling wine.I was very grateful to cellarmaster Paul Gerber for agreeing at reasonably short notice to host the tasting for us, and for agreeing to our time request, slotted into the drive from McGregor to Cape Town.  It was an incredible reconnection, as Paul had been a Maths teacher in a previous life, and recognized my friend as being the father of one of his learners at SACS. 

Le Lude is doing exceptionally well since it started in 2011, with 90000 bottles to be produced this year, compared to 50000 last year. The wine estate is 3ha in size, and they buy in extra grapes, mainly from Robertson and Bonnievale. Paul explained that the Le Lude bottle is custom-made in Italy. The Le Lude sparkling wines have about 11,5 – 12% alcohol, and less sulphur added, making them easy drinking, and less inclined to create hangovers. 

We were seated in the tasting table near the entrance to the cellar, where three settings with three flutes each had been set up.  We tasted two Le Lude MCCs and the French champagne Le Mesnil:

#   Le Lude Brut: This is a non-vintage sparkling wine, and is made with 67% Chardonnay and 33% Pinot Noir. 

#   Le Lude Brut Rosé: This is also a non-vintage MCC, and is made as a blend led by Pinot Noir (53%), with Chardonnay, a small quantity of light red wine, and Pinot Meunier. 

#   Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs: Paul spends time at this champagne house in France every year, made 100% with Chardonnay, and not using malolactic fermentation in the production of the champagne. It spends five years on the lees.  It has a very distinctive Golden Delicious taste. The Wine Cellar website describes this champagne as coming from the Côte des Blancs, which ‘yields popular Champagnes that are known for light and delicate aroma, finesse, and elegance, and the appellation is classified as 100% Grand Cru’. It asks whether Le Mesnil is the best co-operative in France, given the complex, elegant, and understated fizz, ‘with tiny bubbles and a creamy mid-palate’.

Paul serves on the MCC association committee, and it is setting standards for all MCCs made in our country, with maturation to be a minimum of twelve months (with a move to increase it to 15 months), and that all grapes be hand-picked. Standards will be set for the ethical operation of the wine estates producing MCC. 

Paul insisted that we pair the wines with their canapés, and ordered two platters of them. One platter offered Tempura French beans, roasted garlic aioli, smoked Snoek croquette, duck liver parfait, roasted brioche, and a vanilla profiterole.  A second platter offered salmon tartare, baby lettuce, glazed pork belly with apple chutney, and a double chocolate lamington. 

Paul gave us some details of his background, having gone to school at Wynberg Boys. He loved playing rugby, and became a teacher at SACS and thereafter at Reddam, teaching Maths and coaching rugby.  Being a fan of sparkling wines, he changed career direction, giving up teaching, and going to Stellenbosch University to study Oenology, specializing in sparkling wine production. He is currently working on his Masters degree, and its focus too is sparkling wine, and what makes the perfect bubbly.  In following his passion for sparkling wine and champagne, Paul has worked in Germany, Italy and France. Paul and his wife are expecting their first addition to the family shortly. Paul shared that he was recently part of a program on Classic FM, and Le Lude was paired with Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. 

The Orangerie restaurant, where we planned to have lunch, was closed, it being a Monday. I ate at the restaurant soon after its opening, a year ago. 

Orangerie Restaurant at Le Lude Cap Classique Cellar sparkling addition to Franschhoek!

Disclosure: We were not charged for the Le Lude tasting and canapés. 

Le Lude, Lamprecht Road, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 100-3465. www.lelude.co.za.  Twitter: @LeLudeMCC.  Instagram: @leludemcc @alchemyxbubbles Monday to Sunday. Tasting costs R70.

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein