Sparkling wine, whether made by injecting with carbon dioxide, much in the same way sparkling mineral water is made, or by the classical “Méthode Champenoise” or second fermentation in the bottles, known in the Cape as Methode Cap Classique [MCC], is becoming more popular as a drink to have without a reason.
Previously regarded as a special occasion wine, the sweeter ones were used for granny’s birthday, daughter’s graduation and the drier ones as openers for dinner parties, fizz now forms part of our every day wine drinking.
Simonsig under the legendary Frans Malan some 40 years ago was the first estate in South Africa to produce a classical sparkler – Kaapse Vonkel – with Frans using Chenin Blanc in the earlier years. Today the classical Champagne grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are used on the estate where Frans’s son Johan produces a superb range of fizz – both white and rosé.
Achim von Arnim at Boschendal and Jeff Grier at Villiera followed shortly after, using the talents of Jean-Louis Denois, then a bright young man from Champagne, who spent time in the Cape sharing his experiences in second fermentation in the bottle. Jean-Louis was also the progenitor of the Blanc de Noir that Boschendal first produced in the vintage of 1980, if my memory serves me correctly.
Today there are a number of serious producers of sparkling wines in the Cape. Achim von Arnim has moved on to Pierre Jourdan, Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck lives up to his nickname of Bubbles; Ross Gower makes a wonderful pink Pinot Noir Brut in Elgin, and Melissa Nelson with her Genevieve is one of the newest kids on the block.
The first house to specialise solely in the making of both carbonated sparkling wines and MCC is The House of JC le Roux in Stellenbosch. From this producer you get the full range of fizz. From the carbonated whites, reds and rosé wines through to the more serious MCC under both the Pongracz label and the well known J C le Roux range.
Apart from the flagship Scintilla, JC le Roux produces two stunning MCC Pinot Noirs, one a white and one a rosé and the yummy La Vallée, a semi sweet with flavours of ripe pear slices and nutmeg spice which are perfect for spicy, and Oriental foods.
Michael Olivier is a wine writer, broadcaster and author of The People’s Guide – navigate the winelands in a shopping trolley.