The distinctive black bottle, a pioneering approach unrivaled by most, a gorgeous rose garden and distinctive French charm. Located in the picturesque valley of Franschhoek, Le Lude is a wine farm unique in more ways than one. We were lucky enough to catch up with winemaker Paul Gerber, where he introduced us to Le Lude’s beautiful varietals of bubbly, accompanied by Orangerie restaurant’s perfectly paired menu – an unforgettable tasting experience indeed.
What makes Le Lude so special?
As a former mathematics teacher, Paul turned his passion for precision to the exact science required to make the perfect bottle of bubbles. A fizz fanatic, he dreamed of working in a cellar specifically designed for Methodé Cap Classique (MCC), and so when the opportunity to head up the newly opened Le Lude presented itself, he jumped right in! And the specialization has paid off. Their Brut and Rosé are spectacular, the style dry, savoury, with an incredibly fine bubble.
Le Lude is also the first to produce an Agrafe (Tirage Liège) Cap Classique – fermenting its wine under cork instead of crown cap to achieve greater richness in the end wine. It’s also a significant step in placing SA as a leader on the Cap Classique world map.
The Bubbles tasting experience
We began by tasting the The Brut and Rosé non-vintage. The Brut is a blend of 54% Chardonnay and 46% Pinot Noir, while the Rosé is 35% Chardonnay and 65% Pinot Noir. Both are matured for 3 years on the lees. What is remarkable is how the flavours of both change when tasting the Magnum versions – the larger bottles slow down the aging process, which leaves the wines exceptionally young and tasting ‘like they were bottled yesterday’ as Paul would say. Refreshing palate aside, it is rather an opulent experience to sit under the boughs of the verdant courtyard, a larger than life bottle on the table.
Then there are the vintages. Rich and full, the Vintage Cuvée 2012 is elevated by notes of citrus, white peach and brioche. The mousse is creamy, and the finish is ultra dry, though still very youthful. In short, it’s glorious!
Something else that sets Le Lude apart is their champagne offering. In partnership with Les Mesnil, visitors are offered a tasting of true French Champagne – a different experience entirely compared to our local MCCs. While the the biscuity, refined mousse and elegant finish was a delight, it is hard not to compare it to our home-grown bubbles (though Paul stressed that there is no need to do so, so unique are we both).
Dining at Orangerie
Surely one of Franschhoek’ most beautiful restaurants, Orangerie restaurant keeps a surprisingly low profile. But this light, bright, hidden gem is where you should head for eqsuite French cooking, sublimely matched to the bubbles on offer. For starters, order the gruyère soufflé (Paul’s recommendation) or the crispy fried Patagonian calamari served with Asian style coleslaw, and a ‘scrape out every last bit’ roasted garlic aioli. There are hearty mains on offer that include crispy-skinned chicken breast stuffed with tarragon chicken mousse, ginger-glazed pork belly, and Peking duck breast. But if you just have one thing, make sure it’s dessert. The raspberry soufflé with French vanilla ice cream, served in a shining, coppery pot is a light-as-a-cloud dish from heaven, while the Caramelized Brioche, cinnamon crumble, poached Granny Smith with Madagascan vanilla ice cream will melt all residual resistance. If you’re just popping in for something light, do try the canape pairing menu.
But what of the estate itself? An aromatic rose garden welcomes you into the stylish courtyard, where it’s best to recline on balmy days. Tastings take place inside, where a volume of mirrors, soft green panelling, fresh-cut flowers and elegant furniture exude an old-world meets contemporary feel. Under foot, glass panels reveal glimpses of the cellar itself – tours available should you wish to see where the magic happens. In short, it’s a space that reflects this very special South African MCC farm that’s burst onto the scene in every way.
Book your visit
Visit Le Lude’s website to make a reservation, or call +27 21 1003465 for more.
Blog post by: Tarah Darge