Much as it pains me (a dedicated Anglophile) to say this, there are some times when only French champagne will do. Marriage proposals, births of children, this coming Sunday – and when these times come round, saying it with French fizz just seems to carry so much more weight.
The problem is, of course, the price. I would love to follow in Joanna Lumley’s footsteps and be a Bolly dolly but I haven’t drunk any for the last few years since the prices started soaring skywards. Same with Veuve, Laurent Perrier, Moët, etc etc. Champagne houses such as these spend more money proportionally on marketing and advertising than any other wine brands in the world and because of this, the most important factor in their production is consistency. In order to achieve that and make the requisite volumes, they buy in grapes which can make for reliable but predictable wines.
If you want individuality and flavour, your best bet is to look for smaller champagne houses who grow their own grapes and make their own wines as these generally offer the best value. So when I was invited to lunch by champagne specialists, Cuvée Classiques and promised lots of French champagne from smaller producers, I (along with every other food and wine journo in Cape Town) was there like a shot.
Over a perfectly pleasant repast at Portofino we enjoyed champagne from 3 of their producers – Lallier, Jacquesson and Drappier. All of them offered plenteous bubbles, elegant fruit flavours, lively acidity and that feeling of naughtiness which you only get with French champagne. But it was the prices which really made them stand out – starting at only R259 a bottle, yes, I said R259 a bottle - these are coming in at a fraction of the better known marques which make them seriously worthy of consideration this Valentine’s Day. They deliver free within the Cape Town area and have a range of special packages ready for Sunday so if you want the best of France at a fraction of the cost, give them a call before the weekend. Cuvée Classiques -www.ccq.co.za
PS - They also import Duval-Leroy (R395 a bottle) which we had on our wedding day, so if my husband is reading this – I’m holding my breath in anticipation!