Catching Up With the Legendary Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira in London…

It’s been a long week with moderate jeg lag after arriving back from San Francisco last Sunday. By Friday, I felt I was just about back to normal, only waking up at 5am… instead of 3am. But there can certainly be no better pick-me-up than some bubbles, and today I had a lovely visit from Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira himself, the master of Cape MCC.

As someone who did their MW dissertation on MCC Production in Constantia Valley, I am of course a great lover and eternal ambassador of fine Cape Methode Champenoise sparking wines, or Methode Cap Classique as they are classified in South Africa. And there are no greater names in MCC circles than Bubbles Ferreira, who makes some of the greatest examples of bottle fermented sparkling wine outside of Champagne.

Interesting to hear from Pieter that MCC sales continue to grow around 14% per year for them in SA and I suspect this is probably only slightly higher than the overall category average. For three quarters of the year, South Africa is almost too hot to drink too much red wine, so beer, white wine and of course chilled bubbles are the order of the day. South Africa has developed into a serious producer and quality of MCC across the board is very high on average. Not surprisingly, South Africa is now also the largest market for French Champagne on the African continent.

So it was great to have another look at the famous Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2009, the most prestigious cuvee in the Graham Beck portfolio and an absolute personification of Pieter’s passion and obsession for creating the perfect sparkling wine. Grab a bottle if you can get your hands on some of the tiny allocation that has made it to the UK for the first time.

Tasting Note: A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, both were whole bunch pressed and only the tete de cuvee was used, being mostly fermented in stainless steel but with a small percentage in Piece Champenoise 205 litre oak barrels. The wine is pale straw and wonderfully vibrant and fresh. The nose is rich, subtly savoury and exceptionally complex, showing wonderful opulence and attractive notes of biscuit, dusty limestone, shitake mushrooms, and white truffles. The whole while, the nose and palate are underpinned by vibrant, creamy citrus fruit purity. Lemon and dried herbs, yellow grapefruit and white citrus blossom. The texture is hedonistic and luxurious with a real salty, briney sea breeze character coming through on the long, toasty, nutty finish. Beautiful creamy mousse is perfectly assembled and in fine balance with fresh acids and elegant mineral finesse. A truly world class expression. Bravo Bubbles Ferreira.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Precision and Passion to Create Champagne Magic…

Going to large tastings, like the London Wine Trade Fair, I always find certain styles of wines get neglected. For starters, Ports and fortified wines, Madeiras and Sherries, but also Champagnes and quality sparkling wines. 

I find fortified wines tend to fatigue the palate prematurely and bubblies make all subsequent still wines taste disproportionately flat or flabby. So getting the opportunity to sit down for an intimate, focused lunch with one of Champagne’s top winemakers over a 4 course lunch at Nigel Platts-Martin’s fantastic La Trompette Restaurant in Chiswick was very exciting.

We tasted a fantastic selection of Champagne Henriot’s portfolio with Laurent Fresnet, their head winemaker and maitre de chai, and his importer John E Fells, ably attended to by the very talented sommelier Tanguy Martin.

The Henriot Brut Souverain NV, to start with, was a fantastic intro that has really become a massively popular by-the-glass offering in restaurants. 50% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir, and 8% Pinot Meunier make for a superbly versatile style. (Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

We also tasted the excellent Blanc de Blancs NV from magnum (95/100), the Rose NV (92+/100), and then the tantalising Brut Rose Vintage 2008, which was lifted, fresh, vibrant and oh so perfumed. A real class act (94/100).

The highly impressive, award winning Brut 2006 (94/100) was the perfect lead into our final pairing… the prestige cuvee Henriot Enchanteleurs 1999 from magnum and the 2000 from bottle. The perfect accompaniment to the cheese and dessert.

The star of the lunch, the Henriot Enchanteleurs 1999 ~ An explosion of truffle, lemon butter, brioche and creamy lemon biscuits. Wow, such complexity and vibrancy. Exceptional! (95+/100)

Scallop amuse bouche

Partridge Tortellini

Rhug estate Chicken

Custard tart, cinnamon ice cream and quince purée.

Incredibly good Michelin star food and superb service matched the greatness of the wines. A real privilege. Thank you Laurent! I look forward to visiting you in Reims soon!