This morning I attended the launch and tasting of the new Le Lude Cap Classique, made by winemaker Paul Gerber, from Franschhoek, having received the invitation from Ann Ferreira to attend the launch of Le Lude Reserve Brut and Reserve Rosé.
The venue for the launch was interesting, being a small inner-city winery owned by Tim Martin, down a side street in Salt
I was delighted to hear that Chef Westley Muller, who had spent more than five years at Towerbos at Knorhoek, is opening The Orangerie (and Champagne Bar at Le Lude) in November. Chef Wesley’s wife Carmen has also left Towerbos, and now works at Rupert & Rothschild. Chef Wesley told me that the restaurant will offer classic French cuisine and will not be fine-dining. They have a charcoal grill and sous vide equipment. They will also offer High Tea.
We were welcomed by Nic Barrow, the owner of
Le Lude, who bought the property in 1999. He quoted a number of sayings referring to champagne, all of them positive and glowing, He grew up in the Free State, practiced law for many years in Oudtshoorn, and now loves living in Franschhoek. He introduced his wife Ferda, and his two daughters, Nicolene being a chef who has worked at top restaurants locally, as well as at Michelin-star La Gavroche with Chef Michel Roux Jnr. The other daughter Olga has studied a number of subjects, the latest being interior design, and her father said that she would love to redesign all of South Africa. Nic introduced winemaker Paul Gerber and the assistant winemaker Lisa, and he praised PRO Ann Ferreira for her excellent organisation of the event. He introduced Chef Wesley, and the long official name of the restaurant, being The Orangerie and Champagne Bar at Le Lude. Lastly he thanked the writers present for the ‘nice things‘ we would write about Le Lude. Later he told a small group of us that when they bought the land, previously owned by the late Mr Parkfelt, the clay soil quality was very poor, and they had to replace the soil.
Paul took over and talked us through the tasting of the flights of wine. The first flight was one of base wines, a red wine made for colour, the Prestige, and the Reserve 2012 wine which had been matured in barrel for 2 years and spent one year in a Magnum. It is used as a blending component. There is no time limit in keeping the Reserve in a bottle.
He told us that their magnificent cellar had been built in 2011. They buy 90% of their grapes from Robertson, Elgin, Plettenberg Bay, and Sutherland, growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes in Franschhoek too. He praised the Pinot Noir from Plett, saying it is of ‘exceptional quality‘, ripening 2 – 3 weeks later than in other regions. It has higher acidity, and riper fruit quality. In Sutherland they obtain Pinot Meunièr, a challenging grape, Paul said. They keep the Cuvee, and sell a lot of their first pressing. They focus on precision and accuracy at Le Lude, and use a gyropalette for automated riddling.
We tasted a Le Mesnil made in a co-operative in Champagne, where Paul had worked in the Côte des Blancs. Then we blind-tasted the difference in taste of a Le Lude Brut with crown cork closure and cork closure, a distinctive difference being noticeable.
Paul studied Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, ‘loving bubbly’, he said. He worked in Northern Italy, and praised its bubbly. He has worked in Champagne too, and then in Germany with sparking Riesling. On his return he worked for Pieter Ferreira as an intern at Graham Beck. Then he met Nic Barrow! Le Lude is the first Cap Classique brand in our country to use cork as a closure for its bubbly, giving a more natural gas exchange, Paul said.
After the Le Lude tasting, platters of canapés made by Chef Wesley and his team were made available, including oysters, hot smoked snoek fishcake with Atchar Aioli, lettuce cups with shredded chicken, rice paper prawn and basil spring rolls with sweet chilli sauce, duck liver parfait on toasted brioche and confit onions, honey glazed sweet potato with toasted pecan nuts and citrus, and yoghurt flatbreads with roast aubergine pickled peppers and sesame butter, a good indication of what we can expect when The Orangerie opens.
The Le Lude Reserve Brut is a blend of 60% Chardonnay (oak fermented) and 40 % Pinot Noir, while the Reserve Rosé is a blend of 65% Pinot Noir (of which 5-7% is a red wine made in the Beaujolais style to give colour) and 35% Chardonnay. Both blends are matured for 36 months. Both bottles are embossed with the Le Lude logo. Paul described the Reserve a brut as ‘more lean‘, a ‘sports car’, while the Reserve Rosé is more ‘frivolous’ and ‘voluptuous’. The Reserve Brut costs R190 and the Reserve Rosé R195. A Le Lude Prestige will be launched in 2016/2017. Le Lude is available from John Collins as agent, from Wine Cellar, and from SG Liquors.
The excellent Le Lude Cap Classiques are made with love and passion, one senses, and the proposed prices seem to offer excellent value.
Disclosure: We received a bottle each of Le Lude Réserve Brut NV and Reserve Rosé NV with our media pack.
Le Lude, Lambrechts Road, Franschhoek. Tel (044) 279 1791 www.lelude.co.za Twitter:@LeLudeMCC Visits by appointments.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Tel (021) 433-2100 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here