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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #134 (article first published : 2005-07-19)

A glamorous newcomer to the local wine scene is an import from Italy made in the frizzante style, slightly sparkling, petillant, crackling, to use various terms for this type of wine.

The new arrival is Bellussi Prosecco, Bellussi being the producer and prosecco the grape. Bellussi is a farm in the Valdobbiadene region north of Venice. Prosecco is a late-ripening, delicate white wine grape which is grown extensively in this area and is often used for making sparkling and frizzante wines.

The Bellussi Prosecco is light and dry and slightly sparkling, with a hint of pear in the taste. The bubbles are created by the Charmat method, in which wines are fermented in sealed tanks and drawn off into the bottle under pressure, a process which is less time-consuming and less costly that the traditional methode champenoise (called methode Cap Classique in South Africa).

Technicalities aside, the Bellussi Prosecco is a really attractive drink, fresh, tingling and with a low alcohol content, 12 percent (compared with about 12,5 percent for most white wines), and low calories. It comes in an eye-catching black bottle with gold lettering and has a distinctly festive air, just the thing for weddings and other celebrations.

Its retail price is about R60 a bottle, which makes it highly competitive with many Cap Classique products. My guess is that it will make an impact on the local market.

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Because of other engagements I could not attend the Juliet Cullinan Standard Bank Wine Festival held recently over two days at the Hilton Hotel, Durban, but I gather that it was highly successful.

Juliet, who is based in Johannesburg, tells me that about 400 people attended the festival, which consisted of tastings of wines from about 30 distinguished Cape cellars. She found the Durban people friendly and keen to know about wines. The tasters had the opportunity to talk to many winemakers, and one person in the wine industry commented that the local enthusiasts were a pleasant change from some of the languid, super-sophisticated wine cognoscenti in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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Longridge Winery of Stellenbosch has won a high distinction with its merlot, 2003 vintage. This wine has been awarded the trophy for the best merlot at the London-based International Wine and Spirit Competition. This is one of the world’s major wine competitions; it attracted more than 5,000 entries from 50 countries this year.

Owned by the big Winecorp organisation, Longridge produces a wide range of wines, using grapes grown on the slopes of the Helderberg mountains near Stellenbosch. The prize-winning Longridge Merlot 2003 will be released in South Africa later this year. – Michael Green




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