This past weekend, the lush grounds surrounding Franschhoek’s iconic Huguenot Monument were transformed into an effervescent forum for anyone and everyone with a love and appreciation for sparkling wine in all of its many, magical permutations. The Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne festival is a celebration of sparkling wine with a definite emphasis on locally crafted Méthode Cap Classiques (MCCs) but with a handful of international wines from France and Italy included.
We arrived appropriately attired in the black-and-white dress code and collected our armbands, tasting coupons, and, elegant, generously proportioned tasting flutes from the festival entrance. We then fell in with the elegant crowd to begin our tasting experience of the best bubbles the Cape winelands have to offer.
Beneath the yawning marquee tents of the festival, there were Méthode Cap Classiques showcased in their hundreds by wine estates, both commercial and boutique in size, from all over the Franschhoek valley and further afield. Colmant, Allée Bleue, Black Elephant Vintners, Haute Cabrière, Le Lude, Laborie, Anthonij Rupert, and more… there was just no shortage of impressive MCCs to taste, savour, and take home for sustained indulgence.
There were widely recognisable bubbly producers – Graham Beck, JC Le Roux, Pongracz, and Paul René – as well as several I’ve never heard of before. Using our coupons, we were able to sample a variety of both, including the Colmant Brut Reserve, GM&AHrens Vintage Cuveé 2014, Domaine Des Dieux Claudia Brut 2012, and the JC Le Roux Brut. The “complimentary” booklet included in the ticket price contained ten coupons but with most estates demanding two, three, four, and even five per tasting, we were only able to try four MCCs.
Of course, there were more booklets on sale but the ample and atmospheric seating areas beckoned us away from the throng. And so, rather than continue hop-scotching from one wine stand to the next, we made ourselves comfortable with two bottles of Colmant’s excellent Brut Reserve and a plate of fresh oysters, and spent the afternoon listening to live music, chatting animatedly about life, and enjoying the sensation of quality bubbly tickle and tumble its way down our throats.
In amongst the sea of gorgeous South African MCCs were bottles from the hallowed soils of Champagne, which festivalgoers could spend half a booklet of coupons tasting or purchase for about R100 a glass. There were also fruity Proseccos from Italy and other contributions from the international winemaking community; however, being an enormous fan of South Africa’s local sparkling wines – as well as their more reasonable prices – we stuck to MCC.
With such a mind-boggling smorgasbord of bubbles from around the Cape winelands and the world, the biggest problem facing almost everyone at the Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne festival was deciding which wines to taste. That, and perhaps trying to stay sober enough to maintain a sense of decorum. Towards the end of the day, a whole crowd of white-and-black clad people had migrated onto the dance floor and were breaking it down in bubbly-fuelled style to the live band.
The Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne festival is a perennial favourite on the wine lover’s calendar, attracting people of all ages and walks of life, from families with small children and fashionistas wearing sunglasses the size of dinner plates to gaggles of friends with clutches and champagne flutes in hand. To get the most out of the experience, you can bank on spending a few bucks but we all had a truly spectacular day in Franschhoek, drinking like royalty, and giving our festive bubbly choices a thorough test run!
Next year’s Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival is set to be held on the weekend of the 30th November and 1st December 2019.