It’s the season for fun, and what better way to welcome the holidays than by enjoying a glass of locally produced bubbly?
Whether it’s a dinner party, a friendly get-together, or just a fun day out in the winelands, the taste of bubbly always adds to a sense of celebration. With so many quality bubbles produced in our own backyard, there’s every reason to crack open a bottle this festive season.
Know the facts
While we’re not legally allowed to produce ‘champagne’ in South Africa, our much-loved local bubbly is known as Methode Cap Classique (MCC), and is made in the same technique as the French version that is produced in the wine region of Champagne. It’s made with grapes that are very low in sugar and pressed and fermented in the same way as ordinary wine, before it is bottled and capped.
MCC is stored in a cellar anywhere between eighteen months to three years and turned regularly while the sugar and yeast continue to ferment and release carbon dioxide. Just before it’s corked, the yeast is removed from the bottom of the bottle, and more sugar is added in preparation for the best part — when it can be opened, poured and enjoyed! Sparkling wine, on the other hand, differs in terms of the process that is used, and has carbon dioxide added to it later in the process.
The term Cap Classique is derived from the winemaking technique that was introduced to the Cape by the French Huguenots. South Africa’s first bottle-fermented sparkling wine, which was aptly called Kaapse Vonkel (Cape Sparkle), was produced in 1971 at Simonsig, and the technique has since grown in popularity, providing South Africans with a range of world-class options and the perfect addition to any celebration!
Take a bite
Nothing quite says festive times like a bit of bubbly, particularly when paired with something tasty. Rich foods tend to soften and accentuate the acidity of bubbles, although most flavours actually go well with this versatile wine. Oysters are a classic choice, and canapés like sushi and sashimi, and light, fresh salads make a perfect pairing. It may seem an unlikely match, but oily foods like duck and certain kinds of fish also work well, while spicy curries also complement the flavour of MCC, particularly those of a sweeter style.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, it is said that fried mushrooms and MCC pair well because the earthiness of the mushrooms complements the fruity notes of a slightly sweet bubbly. The good news is that if you’re hosting a party, there are a lot of great menu options you can try – the main thing to consider is the particular style of MCC you’ll be serving and its sugar level, and match your foods accordingly.
Balance your flavours so that one doesn’t overpower the other, and you’re bound for success!
If the good weather and the holiday vibes have you feeling thirsty, why not try a bubbly tasting or two this festive season? We’re spoilt for choice; the beautiful Constantia Valley – Klein Constantia does a fresh, fruity MCC brut while Beau Constantia’s Pas De Nom MCC is rich and ripe.
In the Stellenbosch region, The House of JC Le Roux pairs their MCCs and sparkling wines with marshmallows and meringues. Further afield, the Robertson Wine Valley has loads of tasting options, including the well-known Graham Beck, the beautiful De Wetshof Estate, and the wonderfully relaxed Weltevrede close to Bonnievale.
1. Black Elephant Vintners Brut
Nestled in the picturesque Franschhoek Valley, this independent company sources grapes from surrounding farms in the area. Their Brut MCC is a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir, and has a fresh, fruity flavour — think citrus, peach and honey. Tastings on the farm can be arranged most days, but be sure to book ahead.
2. Pierre Jourdan Brut
Also located in the Franschhoek Valley, Haute Cabrière produces the Pierre Jourdan range, which includes a crisp brut. With 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, this bubbly has a dominant lime flavour, complemented by an intense richness. Haute Cabrière offers wine tastings and cellar tours from Monday to Saturday.
3. Kleine Zalze Vintage Brut
Kleine Zalze is situated in the beautiful Stellenbosch winelands. Their vintage brut is full bodied with a subtle pale gold colour and a very delicate and elegant nose. As well as a wide selection of wines, Kleine Zalze also has a gourmet restaurant, hiking and cycling routes, and a golf course.
4. Graham Beck Brut Rose NV
This MCC is a pretty silver-pink colour and has yeasty undertones balanced with fresh berry and cherry flavours. Produced from grapes sourced from farms in Robertson and Stellenbosch, this bubbly is both elegant and fun. The estate near Robertson offers tastings and cellar tours by appointment.
5. Steenberg 1682 Chardonnay MCC
This sparkling Sauvignon Blanc is fruity and fresh, with passion fruit, litchi, guava, pineapple, mango and green figs on the nose. The palate is refreshing and fizzy with hints of pineapple and passion fruit. Steenberg Vineyards is the oldest registered farm in the Cape, and offers guests a selection of wine tasting experiences, with a wine tasting bar, tasting lounge and outdoor terrace to choose from.