ALL ABOUT ALI

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ALI – A LIFE by Jonathan Eig

There can be but a handful of people who don’t know anything at all about him, for those very few:

Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016, was an American professional boxer, three time heavyweight champion of the world. He is regarded as one of the most iconic sporting figures of the last century, if not of all time. He was a larger than life and often a controversial figure both inside and outside the ring.

“His great-grandfather was a slave. His grandfather was a convicted murderer who shot a man through the heart in a quarrel over a quarter. His father was a drinker, a bar fighter, a womaniser, and a wife beater who once in a drunken rage slashed his eldest son with a knife. These are the roots of Muhammad Ali, who was born with what he called the slave name Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, and who ultimately became one of the most famous and influential men of his time.”

There have been many books written about Muhammad Ali, but Ali – A Life, by Jonathan Eig is the most comprehensive biography of Muhammad Ali that has ever been published.

Eig conducted over 600 interviews with those who new Ali best and has given us a captivating, comprehensive and well-balanced portrait of the man, neither idolatry nor sensationalistic in treatment.

One gets the whole Ali, from his childhood, his boxing career, his private and family life. One learns too of the many causes and issues he championed such as his involvement with the Nation of Islam, which had a profound effect on him.

These two paragraphs from the book, maybe more than any others, provide so much insight into Ali’s formative make-up:

“While his spelling and punctuation were better than his parents’, the young Cassius was a slow reader and hesitant writer. The written word frustrated him and would for much of his life. Years later, family members would say that Cassius was dyslexic. But the diagnosis was little known and infrequently applied when he was young. The only thing about school that he liked was the audience it provided. Attention was what he craved most, and he earned it with irrepressible exuberance as well as with boxing.”

“Boxing, he said, ‘made me feel like something different. The kids used to make fun of me. But I always liked attention and publicity….attracting attention, showmanship, I liked the most. And soon I was the most popular kid at the school’.

Of course, Ali – A Life extensively details Ali’s boxing career. As familiar as many will be with this aspect of his life, in the boxing chapters so much more is revealed including how the “boxing business” is conducted, it doesn’t make for happy reading.

“Sooner or later, just about every great fighter attracts an entourage. At first the athlete is flattered by the attention of people who want to be near him. He thinks the sycophants might be fun and perhaps even useful to keep around. Before he knows it, he’s travelling in a crowd with a bunch of men in possession of vague titles and even vaguer job descriptions, men who expect first-class hotels, fine food, beautiful women, and payment in cash.”

It is astonishing how many people benefitted financially from Ali’s success, and the longer he continued to fight the more they stood to gain. It is alarming just how many times Ali donned gloves and climbed into a boxing ring. After reading this book, few will view the sport of boxing in the same light. The downside of the sport is revealed in all its depressing detail in the Ali experience of it. If this is what happened to one of boxing supreme exponents, one shudders to imagine what befell those many, many fighters without Ali’s skills….

“In an early interview, a reporter asked just how much of his bragging was genuine. How much of his ‘I am the greatest and gee ain’t I pretty’ routine did he believe. He answered precisely and without hesitation: ’Seventy five percent.’ It must have been refreshing for the public to know that there were limits to his self- love. Was it possible he possessed a trace of humility?”

“Born in the age of Jim Crow, Ali lived to see a black man elected president. Just as remarkable was the arc of his own life: the son of a poorly educated sign painter became the most famous man in the world; the greatest professional fighter of his time became his country’s most important draft resister. Although he had always been ambitious and always yearned for wealth, he had somehow remained warm and genuine, a man of sincere feeling and wit. Bitterness and cynicism never touched him-perhaps because he recognised this lesson of his own life: that American society, for all its flaws, produced remarkable men from unremarkable origins. He himself, indubitably was one.”

In one of his final interviews, he assessed his own accomplishments: “I had to prove you could be a new kind of black man. I had to show that to the world.”

After reading the book, one’s take-away impression of Muhammad Ali is likely to be affected. Ali – A Life doesn’t pull any punches, there is much sadness and maybe even some disappointment. His stature as a great boxer and his positive legacy to the sport remains unblemished. Ali, the person comes across as a courageous, enormously kind, caring and generous man. Add to this, more than a dab of naivety, too little self- care and maybe too much unbridled giving of himself.

Ali – A Life is a tremendous work of biography. Astonishing both in its detail and its breadth, it goes far beyond just being a boxing biography, it is an evocative chronicle of an era and of the life of an iconic, extraordinary man.

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MY FIRST TASTE OF ORG DE RAC WINES

What does one do after having been on antibiotics for nearly two weeks and being denied alcohol? One head’s straight to one’s wine collection in search for a good ‘un.

I decided to try a bottle of something from an estate new to me, Org de Rac.

 Org de Rac is an organic wine estate situated across the Berg River on the N7 near Piketberg in the Western Cape, about 160 Kms from Cape Town.

Org de Rac recently launched two wines under its new Die Waghuis label. A red and a white blend. The name Waghuis refers to the 18th century guard-house that once stood at the foot of Piketberg to ensure the safety of travellers between Cape Town and the rugged north-western hinterland.

What does one do after having been on antibiotics for nearly two weeks and being denied alcohol? One head’s straight to one’s wine collection in search for a good ‘un.

I decided to try a bottle of something from an estate new to me, Org de Rac.

 Org de Rac is an organic wine estate situated across the Berg River on the N7 near Piketberg in the Western Cape, about 160 Kms from Cape Town.

Org de Rac recently launched two wines under its new Die Waghuis label. A red and a white blend. The name Waghuis refers to the 18th century guard-house that once stood at the foot of Piketberg to ensure the safety of travellers between Cape Town and the rugged north-western hinterland.

What does one do after having been on antibiotics for nearly two weeks and being denied alcohol? One head’s straight to one’s wine collection in search for a good ‘un.

I decided to try a bottle of something from an estate new to me, Org de Rac.

 Org de Rac is an organic wine estate situated across the Berg River on the N7 near Piketberg in the Western Cape, about 160 Kms from Cape Town.

Org de Rac recently launched two wines under its new Die Waghuis label. A red and a white blend. The name Waghuis refers to the 18th century guard-house that once stood at the foot of Piketberg to ensure the safety of travellers between Cape Town and the rugged north-western hinterland.

OrG Die Waghuis - Syrah Grenache Mourvedre Verdelho 20171005_0252

The bottle chose to relieve my ‘alcohol drought’ was Die Waghuis Red 2016. It is a Shiraz-dominant blend with some Grenache, Mourvèdre and Verdelho. I am a sucker for a Mediterranean blend and found Die Waghuis well-balanced with yummy ripe fruit flavours and an exotic, aromatic nose. My return to alcohol was a two-glass one with a further two glasses the next day. (Note to self: you chose well)

Org de Rac Die Waghuis Verdelho Chenin Blanc Roussanne 20171005_0247

The Org de Rac Waghuis White 2016 is a blend of Verdelho, Chenin Blanc and Roussanne. We had this with a gentle fish dish, salmon. It brought the fish alive with its lively fruitiness and was speedily consumed.

The wines sell for about R160 each.

These two Die Waghuis wines certainly bode well for the rest of the Org de Rac range.

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GLENELLY ESTATE NOW HAS THE WOW FACTOR

My lasting impression of my first visit to Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch was surprise at the unimpressive way owner Madame May Lencquesaing’s extraordinary glass collection was displayed.

That was the Glenelly of yore – no more…..

I was recently invited for lunch and a wine tasting and to see the result of extensive renovations – the estate now boasts a Glass Museum, a bistro, and a new tasting room.

11 Glenelly - Tasting Room interior

 

The tasting room is on the top floor of the winery and has a spectacular view of the Simonsberg Mountain. One is able to taste current and older vintages of Glenelly’s Glass Collection, Estate Reserve and Lady May wines. I particularly enjoyed the Glenelly Estate Reserve Red and the Glenelly Glass Collection Unoaked Chardonnay (yes, I enjoyed a chardonnay!).

 

21 Glenelly - The Vine Bistro interior (8)

 

The Vine Bistro, also with “that view”, has cuisine that is French-inspired and which was deliciously evident in the dishes we tasted. Looking at the menu, I noticed that the prices of the Mains are at fine-dining level rather than bistro.

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The display of glass has been majorly upgraded as befitting Madame May’s breath-taking collection and is now a Glass Museum with the wow factor! It is such a unique and captivating assembly of beauty that it is well worth a visit on its own. The Glass Museum is in the underground of the winery, and has 340 magnificent pieces on display.

Wow again!

 

 

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Glenelly Estate

Lelie Street, Idas Valley, Stellenbosch

www.glenellyestate.com

FRANSCCHOEK WINE TRAM EXTENDS THE PLEASURE

Visiting Franschhoek has always been a pleasure, but I recently enjoyed a taste of a different way of enjoying a visit – by tram!

Right from its start five years ago, Franschhoek Wine Tram has enhanced the Franschhoek visitor experience. That beginning was a short rail journey in a 32-seater open-sided tram that only visited two wine farms.

Now that pleasure has been enhanced and today spans the entire Franschhoek Wine Route, visiting 22 wine estates, with the opportunity to spend between half an hour to an hour on the new 80-seater double deck railway tram.

F'hoek Tram launch

I tried a brief ride in the new tram. It is superbly designed, with the aesthetic of yesteryear combined with the ‘ride” of today and (no double entendre intended) its seats “swing both ways”. Try the experience and you’ll find out to what I am alluding.

Wine Tram passengers aboard the hop-on hop-off tour on a combination of tram and tram-bus around a loop of stops allowing them to hop-off at each stop and experience the activities on offer, be it wine tasting, a cellar tour, lunch or simply a stroll through the vineyards and when they are ready, hop-on to continue the tour.

What a special, enchanting journey and a boon to a Franschhoek visit!

I cannot wait to return and enjoy the full Franschhoek Wine Tram journey and as is my won’t, I’ll share the “full monty” pleasure with you.

 

 

F'hoek Tram logo

http://winetram.co.za/

info@winetram.co.za + 27 21 300 0338 Franschhoek South Africa

THERE’S MUCH MORE TO BELLEVUE WINE ESTATE….

I recently paid a second visit to Bellevue Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, this time to taste their newly launched pinotage and also to experience their new tasting room and restaurant.

Now way back in the 1950s, Bellevue was one of the pioneers of pinotage and if they were launching another example, it had to be special…..

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And, so it was…..the new wine, a limited release, is the Bellevue 1953 Pinotage 2016. and it gets its name from the year its vineyard was planted.

Sporting a really gorgeous front label, the 1953 Pinotage is medium-bodied, and its nose oozes dark fruits and a full fruity palate with a long aftertaste follows. I don’t know if it was the romance of the old vineyard talking, but I much prefer the 1953 Pinotage 2016 to the estate’s regular pinotage, and it will drink even better after a year or two in the bottle.

The new tasting room and restaurant are beautifully designed and tastefully blend a tribute to the past with some quiet modernity and offer restful, garden views. The restaurant’s menu has some glorious wood-fried pizzas, and a variety of starters, mains and desserts.

Together these have certainly added a welcome new attraction to the Bottelary area

But it is another of Bellevue Estate’s wines that has played a significant part of my wine drinking pleasure. I have a little story to tell…

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Chatting to Dirkie Morkel about my Petit Verdot “moment”.

(Image © John Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus)

My first visit to Bellevue was to take part in a trail run on the farm. After the run I headed for the tasting room for my first taste of the Estate’s wines. Presiding was Bellevue viticulturist, Dirkie Morkel. I took a look at the price list and I noticed the PK Morkel 2010 Petit Verdot., I had never tasted Petit Verdot before and was curious.

Petit Verdot

I asked Dirkie if the Petit Verdot was available for tasting. He said that it was but suggested it would drink better with food rather than on its own. As the first sip hit my palate, I instantly fell in love with the grape variety and have sought it out ever since. Thank you Dirkie, thank you Bellevue!

My passion for Shiraz/Syrah now had company…Petit Verdot.

 

 

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Bellevue Wine Estate

MANDELA& BIZOS -A CELEBRATION OF A FRIENDSHIP

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Born in Greece, George Bizos is a revered Human Rights Lawyer. His legal career is largely associated with all the major human rights trails in the decades of apartheid. Subsequently, he acted for the ANC at the post-1994 constitutional hearings, and is on the staff of the Legal Resources Centre.

His new book, 65 Years of Friendship is the heartwarming and often heartrending story of his remarkable friendship with Nelson Mandela.

Bizos and Mandela met as law students at the University of the Witwatersrand in the 1940s. A strong relationship developed – they remained friends, colleagues, professional and personal until President Mandela passed away in 2013.

Any friendship that endured for 65 years would be rich in anecdotes. But the friendship between two extraordinary men, whose life work affected the lives of all South Africans, delivers so much more.

65 Years of Friendship delivers a magnificent personal account of this relationship. But at the same time, Bizos offers historical background to give context it.

Mandela became Bizos’ most famous client, forming part of his legal defence during the Treason Trial and again during the Rivonia Trial.

After seeing his friend sentenced to life imprisonment, Bizos became Mandela’s aide, often navigating complicated networks of the “Struggle” on his behalf. Working persistently, be it by secretly meeting Oliver Tambo in exile or arguing for the abolishment of the death penalty in the Constitutional Court years later, Bizos offered his unwavering support to Mandela and his fight for a democratic South Africa.

In George Bizos’ own words: “This is my story of our friendship as I remember it. My friend and colleague, Arthur Chaskalson, the former chief justice, one said of me: ’George has such a good memory that he even remembers things that did not happen.” I will not take it as far as that, but recognise that there are things that I have forgotten, perhaps even some that I have muddled, and for that I apologise in advance. This is a short book about a long friendship.”

Bizos pains at having lost four close friends over a short space of time: Nelson Mandela, Arthur Chaskalson, Nadine Gordimer and Jules Browde. He shared his feelings while chatting to Graca Machel and shared with her that he dreamt that the bell may soon toll for him.

Her reply: “Stop thinking about the bell tolling for you and think what your dear friends would want you to continue doing. “Bizos told her that he was trying.

Long live, George Bizos. May he continue the long walk for many years to come.

65 Years of Friendship may indeed be ‘a short book’ (too short!), but it is an absolutely delightful, witty, insightful, revealing and informative read. I savoured every page of it.

 

 

 

WATER WATER EVERYWHERE AND LOTS OF WINE TO SIP

I have just discovered my ideal location to taste wine – this lightbulb moment happened at this year’s Wine on the River in Robertson.

This annual event is held on the banks of the Breede River on Goudmyn Farm. This year’s event offered wines from 31 Robertson Wine Valley wineries and also local ‘country’ cuisine and great music.

The farm’s green lawns next to the river are an idyllic spot to relax and enjoy and the comfortable scale of Wine on the River makes this pleasure possible for every visitor.

I have long enjoyed the wines of the area, their quality is ever improving but at the same times have managed to remain comfortably priced.   A special privilege at the event is a tutored wine tasting with a local winemaker focusing on a specific cultivar of the Valley.

We attended three of these: a tasting of MCCs, Chardonnays and one of Cabernet Sauvignons. Each offered a range that displayed the variety available from the Valley.

Our MCC tasting was led by Phillip Jonker (of Weltevrede); Chardonnay by Johann de Wet (of De Wetshof Estate – what else!); and the Cabernet Sauvignon by Peter de Wet (of Excelsior Estate). Informative and entertaining and eloquent. All that was missing from the speaker line-up was a Bruwer…..

We tasted 22 wines in all, and each had something special to offer. Two in particular appealed to my palate:

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The Villion Blanc de Blanc MCC 2009 from Viljoensdrift which had a delightful whiff of Marie biscuits and lovely fruit and honey flavour.

Also doing nice things to my taste buds was the Evanthius Cabernet Sauvignon 2012from Excelsior Estate. Dark red and full-bodied with a dark berries and chocolate nose, it drank beautifully and had a lovely long finish too.

Excelsior Evanthius 21092017

Back to the setting, we sat in a tent, with a gorgeous view, tasting lovely wines, eating local food and enjoying stimulating company, all that was missing was a hammock. Wish every wine tasting could be this serene.

Wine on the River

If there is such a thing as a Breede smile, I certainly couldn’t wipe mine off afterwards.

WOR NEW LOGO GREY

See you next year!

HILLARY CLINTON UNPLUGGED

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Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first woman in U.S. history to become the nominee of a major political party. She served as the 67th Secretary of State, from 21 January 2009 until 1 February 2013, after nearly four decades in public service advocating on behalf of children and families as an attorney, First Lady and Senator. She is a wife, mother and grandmother.

“In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down.”

This is the Hillary that we saw and enjoyed so much on a recent episode of the Graham Norton Show.

Her new book, What Happened, is both informative and revealing and a most personal memoir. The book’s dedication sets the tone: “For the team who stood with me in 2016 and worked their hearts out for a better, stronger, fairer America. Being your candidate was one of the greatest honours of my life.”

“This is the story of what I saw, felt, and thought during two of the most intense years I’ve ever experienced. It’s the story of American history and how I kept going after a shocking defeat; how I reconnected with the things that matter most to me and begin to look ahead with hope, instead of backwards with regret. It’s also the story of what happened tour country, why we are so divided and what we can do about it.”

At times pleasingly emotional, Hillary thankfully doesn’t hold back. She also reveals a charming wit that may have been less visible in her public life

She describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, and details the mistakes she made. Campaigning is gruelling and the insight into what it is like ‘on the road’ makes for engrossing reading.

But equally engrossing reading are the chapters in the book that detail her personal beliefs, the matters of policy that chaptered her public life and those that will anchor her life out of office.

Clinton reveals that after the election she had intended to keep relatively quiet. She says that former Presidents and former nominees often try to keep a respectful distance from politics – at least for a while.

“But these aren’t ordinary times, and Trump isn’t an ordinary President”. Surely there is nobody who could disagree with her about that.

Whatever the reasons are, Clinton was and remains a controversial figure. As a result, those who read What Happened might find in it little that will change their opinion of her. None who tread this Earth is without fault, not Hillary Rodham Clinton, nor her praise singers, nor her detractors.

Some might say that What Happened focuses too much on the hurt of that defeat and that maybe it was written to soon. Others may have wished for even more introspection as to the reasons for the defeat.

But not since the late Ted Kennedy’s excellent, True Compass, has a book taken one so deeply into the heart of the American politic and in such a page-turning way.

Speaking at her alma mater, Wellesley College after the election she asked: what do we do know? And answered “Keep on going.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton will hopefully, use the many years that lie ahead of her, to devote her energy to those causes she believes will make her country a better place for all.

 

 

SWEET TOOTH PARADISE

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The name Yotam Ottolenghi is well known to lovers of international cookbooks. He is chef-patron of the Ottolenghi delis and NOPI restaurant in London and has published five bestselling cookbooks: Plenty, Plenty More, Ottolenghi The Cookbook, Jerusalem, and Nopi: The Cookbook.

Fans old and new will find much to delight in his latest book, Sweet, which he co-authored with Helen Goh.

Goh was born in Malaysia but started her cooking career in Australia, where she had migrated with her family as a girl. After 7 years as head pastry chef at Donovans, a landmark Melbourne restaurant, she moved to London and soon joined Ottolenghi. She has worked closely with Yotam as the lead product developer for the past ten years. Helen draws widely on Asian, Western and Middle Eastern influences in her cooking – and of course, on her love of sweets.

Not holding back from the truth, they confess in the book’s Preface:

“There’s so much sugar in this book that we thought about calling it, well, Sugar. Here we are celebrating the sweet things in life. We say this not to be irreverent or flippant – we are completely aware of the current concerns about the adverse effects of sugar – but we want to make it clear that this is a recipe book full of over 110 sweet things…..there is nothing wrong with treats, as long as we know what they are and enjoy them as such.”
“The Ottolenghi way has always been about abundance, inclusion and celebration. It’s the way we’ve always cooked and it’s the way we’ve always baked. It’s the way we’ve always eaten and the way we’ve always lived.”

As a person that looks at the desserts menu first when visiting a restaurant for the first time, I can only say, hear hear!

Sweet is divided into seven sections and in listing them I have included with each a couple that have caught my sweet tooth’s eye:

Cookies and biscuits – Almond, pistachio and sour cherry wafers; Gevulde Speculaas.

Mini-cakes – Tahini and halva brownies; Blackberry and star anise friands.

Cakes – Parsnip and pecan cake with aniseed and orange; Grappa fruit cake

Cheesecakes – Fig, orange and marscapone cheesecake; Chocolate banana ripple cheesecake

Tarts and pies – Walnuts and black treacle tarts with crystalized sage; Schiacciata with grapes and fennel seeds

Desserts – Ricotta crepes with figs, honey and pistachio; Sticky fig pudding

Confectionery – Pecan and Prosecco truffles; Almond and aniseed nougat

Sweet’s recipes are mostly very doable and finding the ingredients locally should not be a problem. Their diversity of flavours and textures make for divine indulgence.

I suggest you indulge your sweet tooth to your heart’s content and then go for some intense sessions at your local gym…

 

LUBBLY BUBBLY AND LUBBLY LUNCH TOO

A bubbly lunch may sound to some that I am on the drinking man’s diet …..I most definitely am not.

The title refers to a lunch I recently enoyed at which each course was paired with a different bubbly from Simonsig – home of the original Méthode Cap Classique.

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Our genial and effervescent hosts were Simonsig supremos Johan and Diane Malan.

Malans

 

Now by any criteria this was no ordinary lunch. Firstly Simonsig and in particular their Kaapse Vonkel, have led the way in South African bubblies for over 45 years. The lunch was held at one of this country’s leading restaurants, Harald Bresselschmidt’s Aubergine in Cape Town.

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Now that the wine and restaurant credentials are on the table, there is another hugely significant element to join them – many rate Bresselschmidt supreme amongst South African chefs when it comes to pairing food with wine.

So upfront it was likely that a huge treat was I store, and boy did it deliver and then some!

 

Here’s the majestic Simonsig/Aubergine menu:

Ocean Kabeljou marinated and sous-vide nettle and green apple shoots

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel 2015

Application: Marketing/ Catalogue
Category: Standard Packshot.

Calves Liver with fava beans, lemon balsamic-glazed white grapes

Simonsig Cuvée Royale 2012

Simonsig Cuvée Royale

Quail Breasts filled with mousseline, prawn reduction, pistachio, cherry-quinoa dressing

Simonsig Pinot Noir Brut Rosé 2015

Simonsig Pinot Noir Rose 2015 HR

Ivory Chocolate Dome with MCC soft centre, almond streusel and angelica ice cream, white flower espuma

Simonsig Demi Sec 2015

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True confession. I am an avid wine drinker and food eater, but when it comes to doing both at the same time, I am severely handicapped. So enjoying food and wine pairings is usually somewhat of a challenge.

But I think a corner has been turned for me. Savouring the glorious range and different vintages of Simonsig bubblies before the lunch was pleasure enough. But then, my personal food and wine-pairing sea change…..

The superb Harald Bresselschmidt dishes and the Simonsig’s always excellent Cap Classiques were so magnificently complementary that my taste-buds finally got the food/wine pairing message. Food, wine, food, wine, food, wine , left right left right, whichever way I turned the balance and harmony were perfect.

Although Simonsig are the Cap Classique pioneers, they continue to strive for excellence and regularly receive industry accolades.

At the recent 2017 Amorim Méthode Cap Classique Challenge, they won: Best Rosé: Simonsig Woolworths Pinot Noir Rosé No Sulphur Added 2015: Best Blanc de Blanc and Best Overall: Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2012 and Best Producer:
So seek out the Simonsig bubblies, dine at Aubergine, enjoy sensory excellence.

Long may they vonkel!