I find it interesting to note how many of my friends now drink sparkling wine as a regular summer drink. Not long ago bubblies were reserved for special occasions – weddings and 21st birthdays.
There was a time when sherry was the accepted drink to start an evening. You greeted guests with a glass of sherry. Now it seems you greet them with a glass of bubbly. Sherry seems to be on the endangered list.
Part of the reason for this trend, I believe, is that our South African winemakers are producing such excellent MCC (Méthode Cap Classique) sparkling wines at very reasonable prices.
Many winemakers – like Philip Jonker of Weltevrede, Jeff Grier of Villiera and Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck – have really gone into the bubbly thing and produce several different styles of MCC. Some are vintage wines, some are non-vintage, some are pink, all are deliciously crisp and cooling.
Most of the MCC bubblies we produce are made from the traditional Champagne varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but one of my current favourites, Old Vines Vintage Brut 2004, is made from Chenin Blanc grapes. Of course this comes a no surprise when you remember it was made by Irina van Holdt, the Cape’s most enthusiastic promoter of the Chenin Blanc grape.
I’ve always enjoyed Twee Jongegezellen’s Krone Borealis, too, for a really crisp and elegant drink that seems to team up well with almost any food. I like their rosé version too.
Of course, a sparkling wine doesn’t have to made by the traditional bottle-fermented method. We have some excellent bubblies produced by the simpler charmat method, in which the bubbles are created in pressurised tanks before bottling. Nederburg produces a good one, as do JC le Roux and Du Toitskloof.
And while you’re exploring the delightful world of Cape sparkling wines, taste Camberley’s unusual Sparkling Shiraz. There are not many sparkling red wines on the market, but this one is rapidly gaining fans. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s light and fruity, with savoury nuances and a nice dusty finish. I’d like to try it with a full-flavoured meat dish like roast pork, or maybe even springbok venison.
If our Cape temperatures stay up there in the 30s for much longer, I can see my consumption of chilled sparkling wines rising to record levels.