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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Sport in Cyberspace. Champagne in Real Life.

Oscar Foulkes March 16, 2011 Wines No comments

We’ve all had “you had to be there” moments, when we’ve been recounting a humorous experience, which in the retelling is not as funny as it was first time around. In fact, it may not even be the slightest bit amusing, in which case one is desperately looking for the nearest carpet to hide beneath.

We also have experiences that link us to momentous events in world history. For instance, at the time that I heard of the planes flying into the Twin Towers I was sealing off several dozen duck breasts.

And, at the time that that heroic man Robin Peterson was smashing the winning runs in South Africa’s group stage match against India, I was tasting – actually, drinking – the 1959 Champagne Guy Charbaut Cuvée de Reserve, an experience of such rarity that I should perhaps have phrased it the other way around (i.e. what was happening elsewhere in the world as I was drinking this venerable wine). The occasion was a function organised by the Cape Town branch of the International Wine & Food Society (IWFS), held at sparkling wine producer Chabivin in Stellenbosch.

I was watching the ball-by-ball commentary on the Cricinfo app I had downloaded onto my iPhone. Trust me, the tension was not diminished in any way by not being either at the game, or watching it live on television. During that epic run chase there were good overs and bad overs, not to mention wickets falling at inopportune times. But, as the number of balls remaining grew smaller the required target loomed larger. The remaining batsmen were facing perhaps the greatest challenge of their sporting lives. History was waiting to be written.

If ever there was an excuse for adopting the ‘chokers’ mantle, this was it. The situation called for calm heads and sure blows. Preferably ones that despatched the ball comfortably over the boundary ropes. De Villiers, Duminy, Du Plessis and Botha all contributed handsomely. With 12 balls remaining, 17 runs were required. Do-able.

But then the sheer numbers of cricket fans overwhelmed the Cricinfo servers. The ball-by-ball updates stopped. No, they were choked!

I was desperately refreshing the screen, while Jean-Pierre (married to the founder’s granddaughter Brigitte) was speaking passionately about his product. The significance of 1959 was that Brigitte’s parents married in that year, we were told.

Then, a partial update at the end of the penultimate over: 13 runs required. Where was that ball-by-ball? I was getting desperate, but the ’59 wasn’t lost on me. Its gorgeous caramel and mocha flavours were the product of over 50 years in bottle. The mousse, while not vigorous, was present.

Another partial update. Four balls remaining, three runs required. By application of simple mathematics it was obvious that the first two balls of the over had resulted in a four and a six, but that blessed ball-by-ball was still absent – thankfully the only choking being done was by Cricinfo.

Refresh. Refresh. The tension had by now, definitely, got the better of me. Then my phone rang, ‘Home’ was identified. I hastily rejected the call (it’s one thing to follow an iPhone app during a sit-down presented tasting; it’s another thing altogether to speak on it). Then the damn thing rang again, ‘Mom Cell’ was identified. Reject.

Those calls in quick succession told me the result. Would I have felt any differently about it had I seen the two runs that levelled the scores, and then the four that secured victory? I don’t know, but I would have loved to have been at home to experience my son on our balcony, as he blew his vuvuzela for two minutes in celebration.

Champagne is the drink of celebration, and by this point I was virtually bathing in the stuff, so I wasn’t exactly getting by-passed in the celebrations.

Dinner followed. Outside, we were seated at one long table as we ate a delicious meal prepared by the IWFS food committee (you can read about a previous IWFS function I attended here).

It was a fabulous evening. You really should have been there.

Chabivin is a joint venture between Champagne Guy Charbaut and South African winemaker Hendrik Snyman, which is making small quantities of Methode Cap Classique (champagne-method sparkling wine). We first tasted 2011 base wine (no bubbles yet), and then 2010, which had been on the lees for eight months (Hendrik is a man of many talents – he also took the pictures above).

After this we were treated to a recently disgorged 1999 Blanc de Blancs from Guy Charbaut, which was very fresh (bottle age occurs most rapidly when Champagne is on the cork) and quite delicious. The tasting continued with the crowd-pleasing non-vintage Guy Charbaut Selection Brut, and included two further vintage Champagnes, the 2000 Guy Charbaut Millesime and 1998 Guy Charbaut Memory.

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