When It Comes to Classic Premium Cuvee Champagne Few Can Match the Desirability, Personality and Consistency of Dom Perignon…

The past few months in the fine wine trade have seen a quite a few epic new premium Champagne releases including Salon 2007, Comtes des Champagne 2007, Heidsieck Cuvee Blanc des Millenaires 2004, Roederer Cristal 2008 and Dom Perignon 2008. But a wine that preceded them all was the mainstream and bigger production Dom Perignon 2009.

As with many houses including Louis Roederer, the decision was taken to release the more opulent, fruity, accessible 2009 vintage expression before the 2008 which although older, was a very serious vintage that showed much more tension, a tauter texture and closed up fruit characters.

The 2009 represents a deadly serious expression of Dom Perignon that is rich, complex and eminently age worthy… but is also slightly more accessible and overt. A delicious noteworthy wine that I’d still buy to cellar for at least 10+ years and drink over 20 or more.

Moet et Chandon Champagne Dom Perignon 2009, 12 Abv.

Plenty of sunshine throughout the month of August and into early September helped to shape an excellent harvest that commenced on the 12th September. Released before the tighter, more closed 2008, chef de cave at the time, Richard Geoffray described the 2009 vintage as a forward, fruit laden vintage. Still eminently youthful, the wine has an overtly floral nose of lemon blossom, white flowers, grated green apples, honeysuckle, dusty limestone minerals and a pronounced maritime briny sea breeze kiss. The palate is full, elegant and fleshy with a precise, focused lemon creamy vinous texture and complex notes of honey brioche, glazed red cherries, spicy yellow grapefruit and salted sour dough. Lovely density, impressive classy balance and a youthfully creamy fine beaded mousse that charms with premium Champagne style.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Le Lude – The Method Cap Classique Producer Breaking New Quality and Style Barriers in the South African Sparkling Wine Category…

On my most recent trip to Cape Town in April, I took the opportunity to catch up with Paul Gerber, the winemaker of Franschhoek based Method Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wine producer extraordinaire. While Le Lude is based in Franschhoek, the grapes for its many unique MCC creations are sourced from a variety of regions around the Cape, many of which are specifically cooler climate in nature.

When Le Lude owner Nic Barrow, an attorney by profession, and his wife Ferda bought their Franschhoek farm, it was based on a dream of producing only the finest Cap Classique possible. Over the past years they have planted it with the classic Champagne varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The first harvest took place in 2012, with the maiden Brut and Rosé releases in September 2015.

Winemaker Paul has travelled to Europe to work and learn more about the fine art of bottle-fermented sparkling wine, working in Franciacorta (Northern Italy), the Côte des Blancs (in Champagne, France) and Germany. Like Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira of Graham Beck, South Africa’s most famous quality proponent of MCC, Paul also travels to Champagne every year to hone his winemaking skills, taking part in research and spending time in the place and among the people, terroir and traditions that inspire his passion.

Le Lude is the first winery in South Africa to produce the artisanal ‘Agrafè’ bottle fermented sparkling wine. Agrafè (Tirage Liège) is the method of fermenting the wine under cork instead of crown cap. This method, in their opinion, results in a wine with a more integrated aroma profile and nuanced texture.

Over the past five years Le Lude have planted and sourced grape varieties dedicated to making only the best Method Cap Classique. Le Lude’s first harvest took place in 2012.

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut NV, South Africa, 12 Abv.

A blend of 54% Chardonnay and 46% Pinot Noir is matured for a minimum of 36 months on its lees and 6 months on cork, this wine shows delicious creamy savoury red and white fruits. At 6.5 g/l dosage, the palate is taut, pure and linear but with lovely fleshy citrus, honeysuckle and pear fruit length. Lovely purity and a super fine expression with real intensity, vibrant acids and really pinpoint explosive, mouth-filling mouse on the finish. A South African MCC classic!

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Rose NV, South Africa, 12 Abv.

A very classy, distinguished Rosé that is a classic blend of 35% Chardonnay and 65% Pinot Noir. The wine is matured for a minimum of 36 months on its lees before being matured on the final cork for 6 months before release. With a 5 g/l dosage, this Pinot heavy cuvee shows fleshy red fruits, strawberries and cream, an impressively full mousse, crushed rock candy, red pithy cherry depth and a delicious full, long finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Agrafè -Tirage Liège 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Brut Agrafè is a blend of 54% Chardonnay and 46% Pinot Noir with 2.8 g/l dosage and only 376 bottles produced. It undergoes traditional cork fermentation and maturation for 36 months. Premium corks are specially imported for this wine. It shows an impressive salty, briney melange of yellow pithy fruits, creamy depth and enticing tertiary complexity. A very impressive wine.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Rose Agrafè -Tirage Liège 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Rosé Agrafè is a blend of 35% Chardonnay and 65% Pinot Noir. It undergoes traditional cork fermentation and maturation on cork for 36 months. Only 345 bottles were produced. This expression shows a rich, complex, creamy, structured, super sophisticated style with hints of apricot, lime peel and vanilla pod spice. Super acidity, this cuvee is ready to go now.

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

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Vintage Cuvée 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Vintage Cuvée is a premium blend of specially selected tanks. Careful attention is given to blending the best terroirs. Reserve wines are produced to enhance the base wines. The reserve wines spend another two years in barrel before being stored in magnums under cork. As expected, this wine is rich, brûléed and absolutely delicious with hints of toffee sweets, citrus cordial and impressive tertiary brioche notes. Palate is intense and lean but with plenty of power and focus. There is a lovely pithy, briney depth, superb balance and incredible reserve wine intensity.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Le Lude Cap Classique Vintage Cuvée Agrafè – Tirage Liège 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv.

The Prestige Agrafè is the best of the best for the Agrafè cuvee. It is fresh and zesty with briney depth and a pronounced saline white citrus intensity. The palate is extra creamy with brioche nuances and an amazingly textured, full, broad mousse. Very intense and utterly delicious.

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

Tasting the Le Lude range with winemaker Duncan Savage, Ian Naude, and Paul Gerber.

Le Lude Magnum Selection:

Special selections are made for the Le Lude magnum bottlings. The maturation times and dosages change depending on the blend but they currently have releases of Brut, Rosé and Vintage Cuvée magnums.

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Vintage 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv. (Magnum)

Only 251 magnums of this cuvee were produced. Aged for 61 months on crown cap, this amazing expression shows a lifted, dense, creamy white citrus intensity with smokey red apple and a rich focused nose. There are hints of brine, sweet lemon, oyster shell, kelp and maritime complexity. A wine with incredible depth, power and precision. Very impressive indeed.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Le Lude Cap Classique Brut Vintage Cuvée 2012, South Africa, 12 Abv. (Magnum)

Only 256 magnums of this prestige cuvee were produced. It delivers an exotic melange of yellow orchard fruits, white citrus and saline, alka seltzer briney mineral depth. This magnum is super fresh and animated with a vibrant mousse and an expressive, intense, complex finish. Delicious!

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

An amazing line up of wines. Many thanks to Paul Gerber for taking time to show me this impressive array of premium sparkling MCC wines, to Duncan Savage for offering his new winery cellar space to taste in, and Ian Naude for making it all happen. As a Master of Wine who did their dissertation on MCC production in the Cape, this was a real treat of a tasting for me. Cheers boys! 🍾🍾

Beginning of a New Era at Champagne Taittinger with the UK Launch of Comtes de Champagne 2007…

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger was in London last week to present the fabulous new Comtes de Champagne release, the first since 2016. With new winemaker and chef de caves, Alexandre Ponnavoy at the helm, it looks like the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Taittinger.

The 2007 vintage is regarded by Taittinger as a very good vintage in Champagne with an especially warm winter resulting in early vegetative growth. The harvesting started with Chardonnay being picked in early September.

Greg Sherwood MW with UK Taittinger importer Patrick McGrath MW and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, President of the Grandes Marques.

The character of the vintage, according to Alexandre, “showed fine freshness, crystalline purity, ample complexity and an intricately bright acidity underpinned by a fine, pin point salinity” which is generally regarded as the key to the 2007’s great success.

The Four Principles of Comtes de Champagne:

Extremely small production, 10 years of bottle aging on the less before disgorgement, five top Grand Cru sites, making a wine that is “an affordable luxury”… appealing to real Champagne connoisseurs, not just millionaires or billionaires.

1 Unique terroir

2 A long vinification history allowing a wine personality to develop

3 Vinification with attention to detail

4 Good forests, using a small amount of oak foudre for ageing a portion of this wine to add a little “salt and pepper” to its character and complexity.

Tasting with new chef de caves Alexandre Ponnavoy.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut 2007, 12 Abv.

A fantastic young Champagne with a colourful personality. Chalky aromatics bristle out the glass, interwoven with dusty limestone minerality, lemon and lime cordial and yellow grapefruit notes. Sublime balance, harmony and creamy textural elegance, this really is such a sympathetic wine with delicious mouth watering acidity and vibrancy. The wine oozes breeding and regal heritage but without any pretentious airs or graces, delivering palate depth, structure and a focused creamy mousse with delectable notes of lemon biscuits, buttered white toast, lemon bon bons, hazelnuts and a wonderful zesty white peach pastille complexity. A luminous bright citric core, refined palate breadth and a creamy sour dough and buttered brioche finish. So, so lovely. A worthy successor to the block buster 2005 and 2006. Drink now or cellar for 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Some of the other “treats” at the launch lunch.

One of the Leading Lights of Champagne – Tasting the New Release Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 2004…

Founded in 1851 by the man who would become known as ‘Champagne Charlie’, this family-owned Champagne house is the smallest of the Grandes Marques. Their size and commitment to excellence, has been underpinned by a winemaking team that between them have been named ‘Sparkling Winemaker of the Year’ at the International Wine Challenge 15 times.

With commercially released stocks of the long running Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995 finally exhausted, the time had come for a new release to seduce the market with and what better vintage to offer than the stellar 2004. Anyone who tasted the 1995 can attest to its incredible quality and complexity… a wine that was able to convert the staunchest Champagne sceptic.

We will probably never again have something this old for the “current commercially available prestige Cuvee release” (at circa £165 per bottle) but we will  no doubt see older archive releases and special recently disgorged oddments trickle onto the market over time. In the meantime, the 2004 is another iconic Champagne release that should find a place in any fine wine lover’s cellar.

The wines were tasted before and during a bespoke lunch with specially selected courses, at the fabulous 1 star Michelin restaurant Trinity near Clapham Common in London.

Charles Heidsieck Brut NV (Current Release in 2018)

Base wine 2010, 40% Reserve wine from 2005 to 1990 (10 year old average) and 60% from 2010.

Very precise, dusty creamy lemon brioche, real reserve wine depth and opulence, concentration and intensity. Plenty of sour dough, saline briney yellow citrus complexity. The mouse is very explosive without being course, expansive yet very creamy and the palate is loaded with delicious nutty almond skin exotism. You just can’t underestimate the influence of the 40 % reserve wines in the blend. It’s signature is super intensity and pin point balance combined with real generosity. This is a fine wine in every sense… and certainly a whole lot of wine for the money!

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

Charles Heidsieck Rose Brut Reserve NV

Base wine of 75% 2012 vintage and 20% reserve wine of 5 to 6 years age. Includes a blend of red wines made by 2-3 suppliers which are aged in tank.

The nose is fairly youthful and vinous, tense and taut with real chalky minerality and overt stony nuances. Still very fresh and tightly wound, delicate savoury red fruits slowly reveal themselves. Pithy cherry skins, cherry pips and cranberry skins. Not quite as saline and briney as the NV white, this Rose NV shows great energy, fine textural shape and a long subtle mineral pithy length. Give this another 1-2 years to open its shoulders and then drink over 5-8+ years.

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

Charles Heidsieck Rose Millesime 2005

8% Pinot Noir (50% Les Riceys and 50% Reims)

Dark copper salmon colour, the nose reveals delicious savoury notes of red berry coulis, cherry pith, strawberry pips, and wet chalk. The palate is explosive, dense, super creamy and expansive in the mouth. Plenty of meaty savoury red berry notes, strawberries and cream with a minerally iron-laden, briney finish. Such impressive concentration and profound depth! Wow. A real block buster Rose release indeed.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 2004

100% Chardonnay Cuvee, 5 Crus selected from the Cotes de Blancs, 4 Grand Crus and 1 Premier Cru from Vertus, each representing 20% of the blend. 9 g/l dosage. Laid in the cellar in 2005 and aged for 11 years on its lees with disgorgement in November 2016.

Rich deep straw colour, with the most seductive nose of brioche, savoury marmite and leesy complexity, salted sour dough and burnt sugar and nutty ripe lemon biscuit notes. Very dense, weighty yet fresh, this wine shows massive concentration of lemon crumble, salted pretzel dow, and a real dusty, gravelly minerality on the long, power packed finish. So much pedigree in evidence here and expertly delivered. A profound Champagne. Drink now to 2028+.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Some of the lovely food from Trinity.

Graham Beck – In Good Company with Pieter ‘bubbles’ Ferreira and Some Great Bottles of Fizz…

I had been looking forward to my lunch tasting date with Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira for many weeks. The opportunity to discuss Method Cap Classique (MCC) and Champagne intricacies with one of South Africa’s best winemakers is always a privilege … and of course MCC was my topic of choice for my Master of Wine dissertation completed back in 2007. 

New 2011 Cuvee Clive MCC release
On this trip, Pieter and Graham Beck Export Manager Kobie were on their well rehearsed mission to share the diversity and opportunities that great MCC offers with fine cuisine food matching. 


Expertly conceived and delivered, I can’t think of a better way to promote super premium sparkling wines than this. Well done chaps! Great wines and a wonderful occasion.

Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2011 Brut, 12.5 Abv. 

This excellent 76% Chardonnay / 24% Pinot Noir prestige cuvee blend spent 6 years on its lees and was created from 120 micro-vinified parcels of fruit from Robertson and Graham Beck’s Firgrove farm in Stellenbosch. This new release shows fantastic lemon cream biscuit and seductive brioche notes, lemon rind, salty briney intensity and subtle wet chalk and savoury lemony sourdough complexity. Such subtlety, interwoven, nuanced blossom fruit and limestone minerality. The palate breadth and depth is tantalising, with tingling acids dancing across the tongue but tempered by rich creamy brioche, and leesy, dusty mineral restraint. Beautiful pin point focus, delicate maritime salty kelp and salt marsh umami notes, and a very long, intense, focused finished. This is a benchmark sparkling wine in every possible way and a phenomenal follow-up to both the 2009 and 2010 Cuvee Clive vintages. Pieter Bubbles Ferreira is a veritable genius! 

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Burrata, caviar, confit lemon, fennel

Prawn pain perdu, cucumber relish, tarragon with Graham Beck Brut Zero 2011
Ayrshire beef chateaubriand, truffled potato with Graham Beck Vintage Rose 2012

Gooseberry posset, Gin sorbet and Graham Beck Brut NV

Great to be joined by Gary and Cathy Jordan from Jordan Winery in SA

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!