The best of the bubblies

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Gad Kaplan thinks back on some of his favourite Cape sparkling wines.

I got the wine bug in my mid 20s, and in 1995 my early obsession was with Champagne. South African bubbly was not of the same standard of today and I wanted to taste the great French wines. On trips to the UK I would purchase top Champagne and carry it back home on the plane. Every birthday I would purchase a bottle of special vintage Champagne (such as Bollinger Grande Année) and so my knowledge of French sparkling wine slowly developed.

Today South Africa produces some fine bubbly at prices very competitive with Champagne. My three favourite producers are Villiera, High Constantia and Graham Beck. The latter’s non-vintage Brut is a lovely quaffer but the vintage wine is in another class. My first experience with the Graham Beck vintage wine at its best was their 2002 drunk in 2008 when I took it to a party held by a friend to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama. At six years old it was extraordinary. My tasting note comments for it were as follows: Unusually pale for its age. Developing slowly - a positive sign. Lovely nose of unripe green apples. Concentrated, intense flavours but still silky smooth. Excellent and almost at its peak. Drinking well now.

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