Anyone who knows South African wine will be familiar with Graham Beck, one of the country’s greatest names in sparkling wine.
One of the brand’s most notable moments of fame, much to the chagrin of California’s sparkling wine producers, was when it was the bubbles chosen for the inauguration of Barack Obama back in 2009.
These outstanding sparkling wines have been imported to Portugal by distributors Prime Wine of Loulé for some years and can be found on the shelves of Apolónia Supermarkets and many restaurants here in the Algarve.
With so many good Portuguese sparkling wines, and indeed Champagnes, to choose from, one may wonder why anyone would buy South African bubbles here in Portugal.
The answer is that they represent excellent value for money, right across the range, starting with the NV Brut and Rosé, both retailing at €21.95, and especially the Blanc de Blancs Vintage at €26.95.
But last week I had the chance to get my first taste of their premium label, Cuvée Clive, a wine made only in exceptional years.
The occasion was a flying visit to Portugal by the winery’s cellarmaster, Pierre de Klerk, who gave a one-day tasting at Apolónia Almancil last Thursday and a private tasting session for invited guests at the Prime Wine warehouse showroom on Friday.
Cuvée Clive sells at Apolónia for €52.50, what may seem like a hefty price tag for anything but real Champagne. However, there are many NV Champagnes costing €50 or more and this fine vintage (2017) is in a different league. The 2017 is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, but the blend changes whenever a vintage is deemed good enough to produce Cuvée Clive. The 2015, for instance, was a 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs.
The 2017 Cuvée Clive is a wine of great elegance and refinement with rich peach, apple and citrus aromas, along with subtle hints of spice and brioche from partial ageing in barrels. Smooth and elegant in the mouth with a very fine bubble leading to a lingering finish.