I’m sure I’ve had this rant before, but why is it that people constantly overlook New World sparkling wines as an affordable alternative to Champagne, especially in these credit crunched times??
I understand why those of us who grew up with 5th Avenue Cold Duck and Cinzano Spumante (both alcopop-like saccharine carbonated sparklers) might think that South African sparkling wine is terminally uncool but people, I bring glad tidings: things have moved on!
The key to finding a sparkler that can rival the French stuff in terms of quality is to pay close attention to how it’s made. There are three ways in which you can make sparkling wine, in ascending order of quality:
- make a white wine and then carbonate it – inject it with CO2 bubbles, much in the same way that you’d make a Sodastream drink back in the 1980s.
- make a white wine and then allow it to ferment a second time in large tanks (called the charmat method) until it develops bubbles, and then bottle it.
- make a white wine, bottle it with some extra yeast, and then allow it to ferment in the bottles, turning them regularly and storing them at an increasing angle until they are virtually upside down, in order to collect the spent yeast in the neck of the bottle. Then freeze the cap of yeast, open the bottle and remove it, top up the liquid and seal it with a cork and a wire cage (in South Africa, these are labelled Methode Cap Classique).
Are we getting an inkling as to why the three methods are also listed in order of ascending price…?
Anyway, on the day we moved into our new house we opened a rather special bottle that we’d been saving for just this occasion – vintage Graham Beck 2001 Brut Blanc de Blancs, probably my facourite South African sparkler of all time. This 100% Chardonnay bubbly has the finest, tingling mousse and a classic savoury toasty flavour, but does not compromise on fruit. Perfect for celebrating momentous occasions… which brings me to my reason for this post. The lovely and inspirational Barbara has recently battled cancer and survived a particularly gruelling round of chemo. Chemo done, she has declared that TODAY is the day that she cracks open the Champagne that she’s been saving! And what better way to show solidarity with our dear friend than for fellow bloggers to post a little toast to her today.
So here’s to you Barbara – enjoy that first glass of bubbles. You are an inspiration