Cap Classique – sparkling South Africa at its best

Wine from South Africa is hot and happening. And I’m talking about good wine. With capital G. Not long ago I interviewed Andrea Mullineux, (watch the interview here) female winemaker who produces top wines in Swartland.

The 1st of September is Cap Classique day and in cooperation with the WOSA I want to have a word about South African bubbly wines.

Sparkling wine from South Africa is known as “vonkelwyn” and has been produced since 1971. The method is the same as that of Champagne, the méthode traditionelle in which a second fermentation takes place in the bottle.

Méthode Cap Classique

In 1992, the term Cap Classique was first used to describe a sparkling wine with a second fermentation in the bottle. Méthode Cap Classique is abbreviated as MCC and was introduced by the Cap Classique Association.

The production of a South African bubble in the MCC category does not have to meet the same strict requirements as in the Champagne region, but the quality improves from day to day. Until last year it was mandatory to leave the wine for at least 9 months sur lie (on the yeast cells), this has recently been increased to 12 months, which greatly enhances the complexity.

There are no real rules about grape varieties that can be used but the use of Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot meunier is recommended.

Silverthorn wines

I tasted the Green man 2017 from Silverthorn wines, a producer of great South African Cap Classique. The soil is similar to that of Champagne (their own words, I haven’t been there) and is rocky, rich in shale and calcareous. Grapes grown here are Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot meunier.

Silverthorn green man 2017

Half human, half natural, the Green Man is an ancient mythical figure representing the spirit of the forest, the continuous regeneration of life and the interdependence of all things. He has appeared throughout the ages from as far afield as ancient Babylon, India, Borneo and Nepal, to abbeys and cathedrals all over Europe. He manifests in many forms, most commonly as a semi-human, foliate head, representing the fusion of man and nature. In his modern guise, The Green Man has appeared under a new name – Ecology. It is this spirit, as well as the delicate green hue of Silverthorn’s Chardonnay Cap Classique, that inspired winemaker John Loubser to break with traditional name ‘Blanc de Blancs’ and personify the wine with the name The Green Man. – Silverthorn wines

Green man 2017

The Green man is a blanc de blancs and the Chardonnay grapes are picked manually very early in the coolness of the morning. The bunches are pressed in whole and most of them ferment in stainless steel tanks, a small part in oak barrels for the complexity. After that, the wine ripens for no less than 22 months sur lie.

The result? A beautiful elegant glass of bubbles that smells like apples, honey and flowers, light tones of brioche. The taste is layered, some apple and lemon, notes of yeast, a small salty touch and a very long finish.

In the Netherlands the wine is available at Kaap tot Kaap wyn. Read more about alternatives for Champagne here.

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