THE HOUSE OF JC LE ROUX
Thursday 18 July 2019
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 3/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wines: 3.5/5
JC Le Roux, or rather more pretentiously ‘The House of JC Le Roux’, looked drab from the outside on a rainy, cloudy wintry Cape morning. Things looked up inside the bright Tasting Room, refurbished in 2012, with signature red, grey, white and gold décor. The welcome, unfortunately, was not as bright. The lady at the front reception-style desk did not seem to understand me. The Tasting Sheet advised 2 tasting options and 2 Pairing Experiences (Nougat or Truffle at R115 or R110, respectively). I chose the MCC Tasting (R95 for 4 MCC, including the flagship Scintilla, ideal for the drier palate) rather than the Sparkling Wine Tasting (R80 for 5 carbonated wines, for the sweeter palate). The lady said I could sit anywhere but the MCC wines were laid out at another table that had barely enough room for me to write on and a low seat that was uncomfortable. Two staff chatted on mobile phones close by at the rear of the tasting Room looking decidedly bored.
Elma was my tasting host but I knew far more than her which bemused. My favourite wine and markedly the best was the flagship Scintilla. A recent winner of the Best Sparkling Wine in South Africa Award, it seemed strange to start a tasting with the best wine. All the wines were non vintage but for the Scintilla – made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in equal amount and aged for 34 months on the lees – was the driest of the tasting. Light gold in colour and with fine rising bubbles, the nose was yeasty with lemon and apple aromas. Fruity, appley flavours came to the fore on the palate with a delicate moussante feel and with an average length finish. Nonetheless, the wine was one-dimensional and lacking complexity.
The 3 other wines, at less than half the price, were of a different, lower quality. The Brut in sexist blue label – ‘for men but women also like’, said Elma – was similarly aged, paler in colour, and showed much less of the yeasty aromas. It was difficult to pick out much of any aroma or flavour such was the limited intensity and complexity. This was an undemanding sparkler wine.
So too were the 2 La Vallée MCCs. The demi-sec was palest of all but showed fruitier notes of pear with a sweeter palate with little weight or finish. The blush pink Rosé did show slight strawberry aromas and flavours that were of better intensity, with pleasant moussante mouthfeel, but very short on the palate.
JC Le Roux disappointed. The MCCs in their Prosecco-shaped bottles were poor and showed little character. Indeed, but for the Scintilla, my rating for the wines would otherwise have been 3/5. There are many better MCCs for similar price. Vintage Charles Fox in Elgin and Non Vintage Colmant in Franschhoek (closer to R200) immediately come to mind as far better MCC specialists. It was good though to see into the open cellar with its traditional pupitres for holding the wines at 45° before disgorgement, together with modern gyropalettes that vastly speed up the yeast-settling process. I have no doubt that in summer JC Le Roux is brimming full with guests who adore the undemanding sparkling wines. There is nothing wrong in that, far from it. There is nothing wrong either in rating poor wines poorly either.
Wines tasted (bought *):
NV Scintilla MCC (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir) – R300 FAVOURITE WINE
NV Brut MCC (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir) – R315
NV La Vallée Demi-Sec MCC (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir) – R115
NV La Vallée Rosé MCC (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir) – R120