Advent Calendar #17 2018…

Frapin 1270 Grande Champagne Cognac, on my Advent Calendar #17 2018

Cognac is a town in south western France where, in the surrounding wine growing region in the departments of Charente and Charente-Maritim, some of the world’s finest brandies are made and matured. Grande Champagne, the name which appears on the bottle of Frapin 1270 Grande Champagne Cognac, is a district on Charente known for production of finest Cognac. To use the name Grande Champagne, it is required that the grapes were grown there, the wine made and distilled there, and that the Limousin oak barrel maturation takes place there. The coarse-grained Limousin oak has a rich and creamy vanilla aroma which it imparts to the Cognac.

Ugni Blanc, one of the three grapes used in making Cognac

The House of Frapin has been established in this part of France since 1270. For 21 generations, the Frapin family have grown grapes, made wine, distilled it and matured their Cognac there. They also own 240 hectares of vineyard in the Grande Champagne. I am humbled just thinking of the knowledge that has been handed down for centuries from generation to generation.

For the Frapin 1270 Grande Champagne Cognac, life begins in the family vineyards where centuries of vineyard know how produce, weather permitting the finest of grapes. The whole process is steeped in tradition and awareness of their consumer’s needs.

Frapin’s Barrel Maturation Cellar

From an elegant Bordeaux shaped clear glass bottle which slopes inwards from the shoulders. It has a very thick base which, with its elegant label, adds a touch of gravitas, before you have even taken the T shaped natural cork stopper out of the bottle. I still have some large Cognac glasses which my father used for drinking  fine brandy. While his friends would warm the brandy with their hands, Father used to leave his on his table and wait for the aromas to fill the glass, put his substantial nose in at the top and then slowly let his nose down into the glass absorbing the secondary aromas. Only then did he lift the glass and take a large mouthful and I could see his shoulders relax as he absorbed the beauty. As a trained winemaker, he knew of these things.

Frapin’s home is the beautiful castle of Fontpinot in the town of Segonzac

In the glass, it is a rich oak imparted golden amber with occasional flashes of dark green. The aromas are of white spring blossoms, soft dried stone fruit and raisins. These are repeated on the palate with the oak imparting its concomitant spices, toasted brioche and vanilla bean. Rich, full, round and so elegant and well balanced. The breadth of the centre palate and the length of the aftertaste bear witness to a truly great Cognac. Such a privilege to drink a Cognac like this, I could feel my shoulders dropping and the hairs on my arm rising like gooseflesh.

I don’t think one ‘pairs’ anything with a great glass like this. Though I do enjoy a square of snappy dark Belgian chocolate after dinner. You can happily add a splash of chilled mineral water which just brings out the flavours and aromas. A block or two ice is does not go amiss either.

The Riedel Vinum Glass for Cognac

There is a very elegant Riedel Vinum Glass for Cognac. Riedel makes glasses specific to the wine or spirit you are drinking. Feel very good in your hand too.

Michael Fridjhon – foremost wine writer, educator, judge and all round lovely man

Frapin Cognacs are imported into South Africa by Michael Fridjhon of Reciprocal Wines which supplies specialist wine and spirit stores around the country.

Read more Reciprocal Wines – CLICK HERE

Asara MCC Brut 2015, on my Advent Calendar #17 2018

One of the things I try to encourage people to do, is not to wait for a special occasion before cracking a bottle of good bubbly. It should be treated like a wine, sure use it for celebration, but it is such a superb food wine and spirit lifter that we really should be drinking it on any number of occasions – even a mid week supper, more of that later. Asara MCC Brut 2015 was made during one of the finest vintages this century. Made up of 62% Chardonnay and 38% Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay vineyards come right up to the entrance of the luxury hotel on the Estate, average 9 years of age and deliver an even handed 9 tons per hectare.

One of Asara’s Chardonnay Vineyards

The grapes for the Asara MCC Brut 2015 are picked early in the ideal ripeness window to ensure low sugars so allow for the second fermentation to push up the alcohol levels. Some blocks were picked later to add complexity to the base wine. Hand harvest at dawn, taken to cellar where the grapes were chilled overnight and whole bunch pressed. Fermentation takes place in Stainless Steel tanks. The base wine is then bottled with a splash of yeast and sugar for the second fermentation which adds not only the lovely leesy flavours, but also the fine exuberant bubbles. The wine lay in contact with its lees in the bottle for a year before being degorged and closed with a natural cork, which starts of its life as a cylinder. It is forced into the bottle and then protected by a little wire muzzle.

The Asara Winemaking Team, Christiaan Nigrini, Cellarmaster Johan Joubert & Janette van Lille

From and traditional Champagne shaped bottle under natural cork. The labelling is simple and elegant. In the glass, there is a vibrant rush of the tiniest bubbles to the surface where they for a crown around the edges. The nose is prickly and has notes of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples. Orange peel and marzipan in undertow. The palate is vibrant with the bubbles which swirl around in flavours of oranges and sweet tropical limes. Touches of Scottish Shortbread. Wonderfully fresh and brisk.

Nina Timm’s Angelfish Fish Cakes with Avocado, Kiwi & Green Apple Salsa

As a mid-morning refresher, aperitif, or indeed with a meal, it is a delicious  wine. Writers usually extol the virtues of caviar, oysters and smoked salmon for an MCC. Often times, these are more expensive than the wine itself. In the Sansibar Gin Bar & Bistro on the Estate, or in its Mise en Place Restaurant Arek Witaszek, the executive chef and his amazing team will offer any number of dishes which would work well with the Asara MCC Brut 2015. If you are far away, you might want to try Nina Timm’s Angelfish Fish Cakes with Avocado, Kiwi and Green Apple Salsa [Recipe, click here]. Perfect as a little ‘pop in your mouth snack’ before, or as a first course for a meal. Plan the meal carefully and you can drink the Asara MCC Brut 2015 right through to the coffee.

The Asara Kitchen Team, Arek Witaszek second right

Read more about Asara Wine Estate & Luxury Hotel – CLICK HERE


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