Nothing quite says Christmas like blooming crocuses, picnics on grassy swards with lambs gaily cavorting about and the air filled with soft downy fluff from newly hatched ducklings. Am I right, or am I right?
I mean, if you’re from South Africa and all.
Detroit Edumacation At Its Finest:
I remember a survey once where they asked Detroit high schoolers to find South Africa on a map, and less than 2% were able to do it. This fact is made even more pathetic when you consider that very few countries actually list their location in their names.
But, whatever. Our drop-out rate is 75%, and a Detroit high school student has a better chance of going to prison than graduating. Meanwhile, a 2011 report from the National Institute for Literacy indicates that nearly half of the city is unable to read.
Apologies: As I am wont to do, I have digressed.
Back To Christmas Below The Equator
I can’t say why exactly, but I don’t buy into this whole Southern Hemisphere theory. Within this shrinking global network, it makes no sense that Christmas anywhere is not accompanied by snow drifting, yule logs burning, sleigh bells tinkling, pneumonia spreading and ice skaters busting ankles.
Between you, me and the wall, I really don’t believe in Florida either.
Anyway, I have read my history, and I know perfectly well than before Nelson Mandela came along, South Africa was known internationally for its white Christmases.
Regardless, there is one thing that we can all agree upon, north and south: ‘Tis the season for a bit of extravagant tippling, which by most standards includes small ‘c’ champagne.
At least it did for that ultimate authority on classy consumption, James Bond, who in Carte Blanche has traded his gauche martini for top-line Cuvee Clive from South Africa’s most respected producer of sparkling wine, Graham Beck.
Of course—despite the fact than 96% of un-incarcerated Detroit students think that James Bond is either a genuine historical figure or an alcoholic local news anchor—he is in fact nothing more than a fictional character. So Carte Blanche author Jeffery Deaver could have had him swigging sulfuric acid from a bleach bottle while mainlining ebola cultures if he had so chosen.
Not so Barack Obama and the aforementioned Nelson Mandela, both of whom are not only real people, but real people who enjoyed Graham Beck Brut NV at their respective inaugural parties.
Gots My Beck, Homie?
Not yet discovered by America’s Champagne-chugging hip-hop home dawgs, who prefer to drink for silly price tags—stuff like Louis Roederer Cristal Brut for $200 a bottle or Brignac Ace of Spades at $300—and not for common sense. Bond’s beloved Cuvee Clive can be had for around $50. Let’s keep it our little secret, shall we?
A Little Beckground Info:
Considering that many of the most recognized Champagne houses have pedigrees dating back centuries, Graham Beck Wines is not a new kid on the block—it’s a mewling infant still in diapers. It was first released in 1991 under the directional auspice of billionaire mining maverick Graham Beck, who passed away at age 80 in 2010.
Beck discovered a passion for wine fairly late in life, but instantly dove into it with the same pioneering mania that he brought to Highlands—South Africa’s leading thoroughbred breeding farm—and a property development company in Israel; Beck, a Jew, is buried in Jerusalem.
The eponymous winery has sizeable estates in Stellenbosch and Robertson in the Western Cape—Detroit scholars, listen up: That’s the side that’s not the Eastern Cape.
The Robertson holding is called Madeba and focuses on minimal intervention in méthode champenoise wines, looking for the specific terroir that the rich limestone soils produce.
Stellenbosch’s proximity to the sea and granitic subsoils offer ideal climatic conditions for a multitude of earthy but elegant varietals. Of the Stellenbosch plantings, cellarmaster Erika Obermeyer, Landbouweekblad South African Woman Winemaker of the Year—a woman with as many adjectives as fans—says:
“I’m extremely excited about the fantastic quality we’re seeing from these unbelievable vineyards.”
South Africa produces a lot of wine that, for those of us whose moon is the right side up, who celebrate Christmas in the winter like God intended us to and whose toilets flush in the proper direction, are acquired tastes.
Frothy, fragrant refreshers like Graham Beck’s outstanding line of fizz may be no exception, but it’s a taste that’s acquired in utero.
I do have it on 007’s authority, however, that they are best neither shaken or stirred.
(It had to be said, did it not?)
Graham Beck Wines, Brut, NV, around $15: Light on the nose, with apple, pear and biscuit evident; round in the mouth with the cream and acid harmonizing, not sparring. Short, crisp finish.
Graham Beck Wines, Brut Rosé, NV, around $18: Aromatic fresh strawberry scents open this sensationally priced, salmon-colored rosé and carry through as crème de framboise in the flavor profile along with red apple, citrus, yeast and rose. Quite an achievement for under $20.
Graham Beck Wines, Bliss Demi Sec, NV, around $20: Unabashedly sweet, but with acidity and dosage in balance. A honeycomb bouquet with whiffs of lime and melon; abundant mousse and a sweet, gingery body extending into a clean, layered finish.
Graham Beck Wines, Blanc de Blanc, 2008, around $25: Tasty and distinguished from fragrance to finale; nice mineral undertones and a touch of smoke on the nose; brisk and creamy with incisive, almost tropical fruit notes through the mid-palate and a acid-gripping finish.