Monday, October 18, 2010

Glitzy, Girly Glamour at the House of J.C. Le Roux

I love champagne, cap classique, cava, prosecco, spumante, sekt and sparkling – we have different names for it in regions all over the world, but however you say it, I love bubbly. I love the ritual of opening the bottle – of peeling away the foil seal, like golden wrapping paper, of gently turning the wire safety, finally revealing the cork. I love that quiet moment of anticipation before turning the cork until it explodes into my hand, and the vapour that whispers out of the bottle before a delicate pour into an elegant champagne flute, and that special “cling”. I especially love the guilty pleasure of opening a bottle just for me – champagne-savers, those ingenious little bottle sealer contraptions that let you enjoy your bubbles on more days than one, are a wonderful invention.

Perhaps the champagne-saver is a symbol of the growing popularity of bubblies everywhere. No longer reserved for uber-special occasions like anniversaries or proposals, these days I find myself enjoying it with friends more often – perhaps because it’s Friday, or because we feel like a bit of girly exuberance. And why not? There are many wineries producing quality options at a price point that makes celebrating for no particular reason completely accessible. In a way, these producers are democratizing the idea of bubbly – bringing the attributes that we associate with this drink, like luxury, exclusivity and sophistication – to ladies of today at a price they can palette while lunching on sushi and looking at the world through rose-coloured designer sunglasses.

The House of J. C. le Roux, part of a historic farm established by French Huguenot Jean le Roux in the 18th century, is one of the wineries changing the marketplace in South Africa today. Exclusively dedicated to the production of bubbly, including the award-winning Pongracz label, J.C. le Roux offers a sparkling and Cap Classique range that is priced to suit just about any occasion. Placed on one of Devon Valley’s rolling hills, you’ll find it at the end of an ambling road that takes you through the countryside past dams, vines, and under the shade of sprawling trees. It feels a world away and is certainly worth a special trip. Most importantly, don’t forget your gaggle of girlfriends. While men certainly can (and should) enjoy the experience, this is a wine tasting that has been especially designed with ladies in mind.

As testament to this, as my friends and I were arriving for a recent tasting we were greeted by the sight of a group of giggling ladies, dressed in pink and floral dresses, who had stopped their car on the side of the road to pose for pictures with the J.C. le Roux entrance sign. As we approached the tasting room we noticed yet more ladies, lounging in the sun next to the water feature, beautifully packaged bottles of MCC decorating their feet. Upon entering we were swept away by streaming chandeliers, made to look like strings of bubbles floating up to the ceiling, a decadent looking pink and grey vintage-print lounger, and individual tables set for relaxed and semi-private tastings, complete with pink tablecloths and rows of gleaming champagne flutes. It was like we had arrived at the VIP section of a secret ladies’ society.

We had our choice of the MCC tasting or a mix of MCC and sparkling wines, plus the added pairing options of sorbet or the “Sweet Delights” selection. We unanimously chose a tasting of MCC range paired with sweet delights – decadent cubes of dark chocolate nougat, rosewater Turkish Delight, vanilla fudge, and more. It was utterly indulgent and worth every bite.

Halfway through we were invited outside to witness a sevrage bottle opening – a traditional technique that employs a sabre to swipe the lip of the bottle, making a clean break in the glass that separates the bottleneck from the lip, a sort of “beheading” that leaves the cork still intact in the bottle top that falls to the ground. History tells us that Napoleon’s cavalry used this method just after the French Revolution to kick-off the celebrations of many victories across Europe. I can’t think of any other tipple with an opening method as show stopping as this, yet another display of the absolute decadence bubbly brings to the table. It’s not just a drink, it’s a glass of joy. Perhaps this is why we love it so much – it takes us back to the days of pomp and circumstance, the feeling of royalty and the pleasure of very special celebrations. Did I mention I love bubbly?

  • Where: The House of J.C. Le Roux
  • Ambiance: Glitzy, girly glamour
  • Hours: Mon-Fri 08H30 – 16H30; Sat (Nov-April) 10H00 – 16H00, (May-Oct) 10H00 – 15H00l; Sun (Nov-April and Public Holidays) 10H00 – 15H00
  • Address: At the end of Devon Valley Road, Stellenbosch
  • Tel: 021 865 8200
  • Various tasting options priced from R30 per person

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