Fairview Brut breaks with tradition – and deliciously so

Pale straw colour, fine bubble, fresh nose,
aromas of baked apple, citrus notes, yeasty
I WAS ONE of the sceptics on hearing about Fairview launching their first sparkling wine made according to the Méthode Cap Classique. My misgivings had nothing to do with the ability of proprietor Charles Back and his team to master the method of bottle fermentation in producing a bubbly along the lines of those made famous by the Champagne houses in France – these guys are on top of their game. But I had to wonder about their choice of grape varieties with which to work their magic: Viognier, Grenache and Grenache Blanc. And it’s weird that on the label Anthony de Jager’s name is given as the winemaker, whereas in fact – as Fairview themselves are quick to point out – the individual most responsible for the winemaking in this instance was Stephanie Betts!

However, after tasting and drinking some of the 2011 Brut I became a convert… At R120 a bottle ex-cellar (only 6000 bottles made), it tastes good, has interest value, and I can’t wait for Back & Co to take on Villiera, Graham Beck, Bon Courage, JC Le Roux et al with an MCC made from Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir, with or without Pinot Meunier.
Given Back’s reputation as one of the SA wine industry mavericks, perhaps it’s not that surprising that he insisted on the first Fairview MCC rather being Rhône-like in its varietal mix. And many of Back’s peers and fans must have chuckled on learning that he chose British bubbly specialist Nyetimber rather than the Champagne or Cap Classique houses for a brush-up course on sparkling wine production the traditional way before briefing his people.