Cap Classique Day 2021
Today we celebrate and pop the cork at South African Cap Classique wines! Yes, that’s correct, we drink only proudly South-African Cap Classique wines today for #WineWednesday.
So plan your day to pick up a bottle or two before heading home and join in the celebrations.
We took a look at the different methods of producing wine with bubbles and try to understand the ceremony behind “popping the cork” (which can be considered rude) and why the skinny glassware. Take a look below at the information from the Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA) and their 2021 overview. Exciting times for Cap Classique wines in South Africa, so raise a glass and toast the master blenders and magicians of this fine wine.
Champagne is a historic province in the northeast of France and since the drink Champagne originates from this area the term has been reserved for produce that is made in the original manner and originates from this area.
The Romans were the first to plant vineyards in the area of northeast France with the region being cultivated by at least the 5th century, possibly earlier. Wines from the Champagne region were known before medieval times. Champagne was perfected by a Benedictine Monk from Hautvilliers, Dom Perignon, some 300 years ago.
The method of making Champagne, also called Méthode Champenoise, involves a second fermentation in the bottle and riddling which is the process of turning the bottles 45 degrees every day so that the yeast doesn’t stay at the bottom. These days riddling is done automatically by rotating containers. To get the yeast out of the bottle the neck it is blast frozen with the yeast inside. The yeast is then pulled out as a frozen plug before putting in the cork.
Methode Cap Classique
If Champagne is made according to the traditionally correct method in South Africa, we still can’t call it Champagne because it is not from Champagne. We don’t call it South Africa either but rather refer to it as Methode Cap Classique, also known as MCC.
South African MCCs can give many French Champagnes a good run for their money on any given day. Lately the MCC abbreviation is shortened to Cap Classique only; keeping with the times. However when referring to the style of the bubbly wine, you can still refer to it as “made in the method cap classique” way.
Method Charmat is another method for making the good stuff that involves all the same processes, only it doesn’t happen in the bottle. Instead an autoclave, a large pressurised container, is used. In some cases barrels or clay containers might also be used to for the fermentation process. Although this is strictly speaking not the right way, it is a cost effective alternative that also produces good quality natural sparkle.
Funnily enough, in South Africa the word Champagne is most often used to describe sparkling wine, which is the furthest from Champagne of all of the variants.
Sparkling wine is readily available and rather cheap as it is not made with the process described above. It is basically just wine that gets sweetened with sugar before CO2 bubbles are inserted like you would do with a soda stream machine. This makes for rather big bubbles in abundance and a very volatile cork pop, especially when the bottle is not properly chilled.
If your bottle is too warm it will make it somewhat more dangerous to open and will also lose a lot of its bubbles and taste intensity. The best serving temperature is between 6 and 8’C.
Champagne glasses are long and slender to keep the surface area as small as possible to minimize the loss of bubbles. To keep the bubbles also pour straight down into the middle of the glass and be sure to rinse your glasses properly as soap residue can cause loss of bubbles. Sparkling wine with high levels of CO2 bubbles is often poured down the side of the glass to get rid of some of the bubbles.
Opening the Bottle
Although shooting the cork is great fun, it is actually considered bad manners and is not good for the content either. Releasing the cork in this manner can take out a lot of the sparkle and leave you with a rather flat beverage. This however does not apply to carbonated sparkling wine. The right way is actually to loosen the wire cap seal but not to remove it. It will assist with controlling the cork. Then holding the cork turn the bottle until the cork is gently freed.
If you do however feel the need to pop the cork in celebration why not do it like Napoleon? It is easier than you think! Traditionally a saber is used but if you don’t have one in your kitchen drawer the back of a carving knife or even a spoon can work too. The spoon is however a little less chivalrous so we recommend you go for the knife.
Start by finding the seam of the bottle that runs down from top to bottom. Then with one swift movement run the knife along this seem until it makes solid contact with the glass ring before the cork. This should set the cork flying. Because only the glass ring breaks off, and half the cork still pulls out of the bottle after it has broken, the chances of finding glass in your bubbly is very slim.
Many people think the right way to serve is to hold the bottle with one hand by placing the thumb in the hollow at the bottom of the bottle. This is actually not correct as you have very little control over pouring. The correct way is to first present the label to the guest by placing both hands under the bottle, then pour it straight down into the middle of the glass by holding the bottle around the neck. When you are done pouring rotate the bottle to turn off the last drops so it doesn’t land on the table.
The Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA)
The Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA) was established in 1992 by a group of like-minded producers who share a passion for bottle-fermented sparkling wines, made according to the traditional method (Méthode Champenoise). Their version is to promote South Africa’s premium Méthode Cap Classique wines, as well as the common interests of the producers. They also intend to establish Cap Classique as a generic term to describe these wines, ensuring that it is recognized both locally and in the international marketplace.
The Association is constantly striving to improve the quality standards of all the members’ wines made according to this classic bottle-fermentation method. Part of achieving this goal is the establishment of technical criteria and organoleptic approval of base wines.
Significantly, all the serious producers of Cap Classique are members of the Association and they share a common objective of cultural and educational upliftment of the community.
Champagne is a wine region in France, and their controlling body, CIVC, objected to the use of the word ‘Champenoise’ by other producers. As a result, Cape producers had to come up with an alternative name and in South Africa, this prestigious wine category became known as Cap Classique.
The name was derived from the fact that the classic art of winemaking was introduced to the Cape by the French Huguenots, and the first bottle-fermented sparkling wine produced at the Cape was called Kaapse Vonkel (Cape Sparkle).
Lovers of South African bottle-fermented bubbly can rest assured that all Cap Classique wines are made according to the traditional time-honoured method and the quality promises to be better than ever!
Whole bunch pressing is at the heart of the winemaking process, with only the first pressing, our cuveé, used to make the various base wines destined to be called Cap Classique. Individual base wines and blends are tasted annually by the Association’s own members to ensure that the final wine is of a high quality.
Once bottled, the bottles ferment and mature horizontally in cool, dark cellars for a minimum of twelve months. There are individual members who ensure much longer yeast contact time, depending on the style and vintage. After riddling and disgorging, Cap Classique wines are left to mature on the cork for some time, to ensure integration and balance. This commitment to quality is evident in your glass every time a Cap Classique cork is popped.
Grapes are selected from a diversity of regions in the Cape, resulting in highly individual styles. Only specific white and red grape varieties are used to ensure delicate fruit and rich complexity. Grape Selection in the vineyards ensures that only perfectly healthy grapes are handpicked and brought to the cellar.
Members of the Cap Classique Association: http://www.capclassique.co.za/members.aspx
Cap Classique: 50 years of Sparkle
The South African wine industry will in 2021 reach a milestone in its history of over 360 years when it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Cap Classique category, the Cape’s famous bottle-fermented sparkling wines.
My top choices for celebrating Cap Classique Day
Drink responsibly and alcohol is now allowed to be sold to anyone under the age of 18.
Don’t drink and drive!
Adhere to the Covid 19 regulations and enjoy responsibly.