A most beautiful as well as informative coffee table book about South Africa’s sparkling wine industry has just been published. ‘Celebrating Méthode Cap Classique’ has been written by Di Burger, and is the first complete bubbly book.
The book traces the history of champagne to South Africa’s sparkling wine industry, which innovated with Cap Classique forty years ago, being a bottle-fermented bubbly made in the traditional French style. Kaapse Vonkel was made for the first time by pioneer winefarmer Frans Malan at Simonsig in 1971, while ‘Cap Classique’ wines were made for the first time in 1992. Chairman of the Cap Classique Association, Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira of Graham Beck Wines, writes in the introduction to the book that ‘South Africa has the oldest grape growing soils in the world’. Combined with its bountiful sunshine, the Western Cape is a perfect location for growing grapes of excellent quality for the production of Cap Classique.
Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is the term which describes the South African bottle-fermented production of sparkling wines in the French méthode Champenoise style. They are dry, with less than 12 grams of sugar per litre.
The book includes profiles of the major sparkling wine producers (Simonsig, Boschendal, Graham Beck, JC le Roux, Pongrácz, Villiera, Haute Cabrière, The House of Krone, Laborie, Backsberg Estate, Avondale, Bon Courage Estate, Van Loveren, De Wetshof, High Constantia Wine Cellar, Steenberg Vineyards, La Motte, Morena MCC, Saronsberg, Colmant, Veenwouden Private Cellar, Mooiplaas, Quoin Rock Winery, Chabivin, Klasiek by Catherine, Namaqua Wines, MC Square, Domaine des Dieux, Lourensford, Old Vines Wine Cellars, Neil Joubert, Teddy Hall, Welteverede Wine Estate, Charles Fox, Francois La Garde, Longridge, Silverthorn Wines, Genevieve, LovanE Boutique Wine Estate, Saltare Wines, Tanzanite Wines, Ros Gower Wines, Wonderfontein, Cederberg Private Cellar, Riebeek Cellars, Groot Constantia, Dieu Donné Vineyards, Roodezandt, Aurelia MCC, Bramon, Viljoensdrift Wines, Sterhuis, Perdeberg Winery, Véraison MCC, and Allée Bleue Estate).
The book describes four styles of making sparkling wines: the ‘impregnation method’ (injecting carbon dioxide into vats of still wine); the ‘tank method’ (second fermentation in tank instead of in the bottle); the ‘transfer method’ (second fermentation in bottles, the cloudy wine is sucked out of the bottle through a filter to remove the sediment); and ‘Méthode Cap Classique’ (second fermentation in the bottle, with a solution of sugar syrup, yeast and aged wine added to create carbon dioxide and alcohol in the bottle, aged on the lees for 18 months - 5 years). In total, there are 90 sparkling wine producers in South Africa, of which 53 are featured in the book. Grape cultivars used most often in the production of sparkling wines are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Beautiful photographs by Riehan Bakkes reflect the vineyards, cellars, and products of the wine estates producing sparkling wines.
Woolworths’ Allan Mullins recommends serving a glass of bubbly at the start of a function, to ‘awaken the taste buds’. Food and Cap Classique pairings for breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the book, and recipes by TASTE and Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly are featured, as are recipes from Simonsig’s Cuvée restaurant, The Salmon Bar, David Grier, and Terra Mare Restaurant. Pairings with Lindt chocolate desserts, and cheese are also featured, as are cocktail recipes with sparkling wine, created by the Cape Grace Hotel.
‘Celebrating Méthode Cape Classique’, Stacked Publications, www.stackedpublications.co.za. Tel (021) 685-2146. R300.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage