Ho ho hoo! Happy Holidays! Nothing screams celebration louder than bubbles. Today, Wines of South Africa (WoSA) is hosting its third Cap Classique celebration at Tamarind, Mombasa showcasing different Cap Classique brands. Here are 10 things you need to know about the bubbling elegance of South African méthode Cap Classique.
1. Stellenbosch’s Simonsig is the SA birthplace of bubbles
Stellenbosch and more specifically Simonsig - one of the original Stellenbosch Wine Route (SWR) members and the place where the wine route started more than 50 years ago in 1971 - is also the birthplace of South African Cap Classique.
2. The difference between Cap Classique, champagne and sparkling wine
South African producers may not use the word “Champenoise” or “champagne”: only champagne made in the Champagne region of France may use that name. The name Cap Classique pays tribute to the fact that the classic art of winemaking was introduced to the Cape by the French Huguenots and the first bottle-fermented sparkling wine in the Cape was “Kaapse Vonkel”. It also shows that it is made in the traditional way, like champagne with second fermentation in the bottle - Méthode Champenoise. Sparkling wine on the other hand is an artificial product, where still wine is placed in a pressure tank and carbon dioxide gas (CO2) is pumped in. The wine is then bottled from the pressure tank - under the same pressure.
3. Cap Classique more expensive than sparkling wine
Cap Classique undergoes a natural second fermentation process in the bottle, where the bubbles then develop naturally. Sugar and yeast are added to the base wine so that bottle fermentation can take place. After the yeast contact time, the yeast is turned to the neck of the bottle (remuage), after which it is removed, and the final cork and string are put on (disgorgement). The process is longer and the bottle is more expensive, because it must withstand the pressure and packaging costs are higher, unlike with sparkling wine as seen above.
4. These are the different categories of Cap Classique
They are blends, Rosé, Blanc de blancs or Nectar. Blends are usually two or more cultivars; Blanc de Blancs is just a blend of white grapes (it can also be cut from one cultivar) and Rosé - usually from red grape cultivars, but can also contain some white grapes. Nectar is sweeter.
5. How to choose your Cap Classique and understand the varieties
Brut: Dry sparling wine with minimal sweetness
Brut Nature/Zero Dosage: Bone-dry with no added sugar.
Extra Brut: Very dry wih a touch more sweetness than Brut
Sec: Off-dry with a hint of sweetness
Demi-Sec: Sweet sparkling wine, suitable or desserts or as an aperitif
6. The difference between vintage and non-vintage
Vintage Cap Classique is made from grapes harvested in a specific year, showcasing the characteristic of that particular vintage. Whereas non-vintage blends wines from different years for consistency.
7. Consider the grape varieties
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Chenin Blanc are commonly used in Cap Classique production. Each grape contributes distinct flavours.
8. Best temperature for your bubbles
If you serve Cap Classique or sparkling wine as a welcome drink, without food; the colder the better, and the experts say at eight degrees Celsius. If you make it colder than that, the wine does not get a chance to reveal its flavors and aromas. Pour the wine a few minutes before you serve it, so that the hidden flavours have a chance to develop in the glass.
9. Let’s talk food pairing
Bubbles are versatile: they’re delicious with snacks, equally yummy with the main meal, especially if they’re rich dishes like salmon, but just as delicious with dessert. For example, a Brut works well with appetizers, while a slightly sweeter Sec or Demi-Sec compleents desserts or as aperitif. Remember, personal preferences play a significant role in choosing the perfect Cap Classique, so don’t heistate to explore different styles to find the one that suits your taste and the occasion.
10. How to make the perfect pour
Tilt the glass and pour the Cap Classique along the side to preserve the bubbles. Aim for a moderate pour to avoid spillage.