Posted on 15 December 2011 by davidbiggs
It’s strange that so many people still believe sparkling wines are for “special occasions” only.
As far as I’m concerned, a “special occasion” is often exactly the wrong time to enjoy a bottle of bubbly. Consider the reality of a wedding reception, for example, or a 21st birthday party, when people traditionally pop a bottle of bubbly.
You arrive and are greeted with a dry white wine (or a beer), then you have a couple of glasses of red or white wine with the meal, downing a couple of glasses during the speeches.
Finally somebody says: “Please charge your glasses for a toast to the happy couple (or birthday girl or whoever).”
We then fill our glasses with “Champagne” and in a huge wave of bonhomie we clink and drink and sing “jolly good fellows” and take a sip or three without actually caring what the wine tastes like.
Look down the tables at the end of a party and note how many of the Champagne glasses have not been emptied.
A good sparkling wine deserves better than this.
If it has been made in the traditional Champagne method (called Methode Cap Classique, or MCC, here) the bottle has been handled about 100 times, fermented twice, capped, riddled, frozen, degorged, uncapped, caged and corked. MCC is the most labour-intensive way of producing a bottle of wine. It deserves our full attention.
When there’s a need for a toast to the bride or birthday girl, I’d recommend a good, inexpensive bubbly made by the simple carbonation method, or the tank-fermented “charmat” method.
But the festive season is a time for appreciating good sparkling wines. We are often surrounded by family and friends and feeling in a happy mood. It’s the perfect time to pop a bottle of good MCC, admire the tiny bubbles, appreciate the inviting, biscuity aroma and sip the crisp, chilled nectar.
Our winemakers produce superb sparkling wines and they deserve our full attention.
This is the perfect time to relax and share a glass of bubbles.
Posted on 06 January 2011 by davidbiggs
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.