Let’s face it: everyone should pop a bubbly at least once in their life. It’s one of those mysterious things. Once the cork pops life seems to begin afresh and with new vigour. Those effervescent bubbles are a fine metaphor for bubbling, surging life in all its glorious manifestations. And besides, everyone can enjoy it without knowing too much about wine. All you need to do is giggle and shriek as the bubbles tickle and tease your palate in the mayhem of good wishes, streamers and festive good cheer. Oh, by the way, the tinier the beads, the better the quality of the Cap Classique.
Just for the record: Cap Classique, or Méthode Cap Classique as it is correctly known, is made according to Méthode Champenoise – the way they make champagne in France. The other method – known as the Charmat process – entails the injection of carbon dioxide to produce those tingling bubbles. In South Africa, sparkling wines will usually carry a designation if they have been made according to the Méthode Cap Classique, a time-consuming and labour-intensive method compared with the Charmat method, so expect to pay a little more for the Cap Classique. But I am telling you things you know already, no?
There is another designation to look out for when deciding on which Cap Classique or sparkling wine you will be buying for the festive season. It is that word “organic”. True, it has been used as a marketing tool, a buzz word and a “feel-good” word tossed about at pretentious dinner parties but that does not in any way diminish the inherent value of the designation, or the, well, let’s just call it the striving towards something better, something more balanced in the world we live in. The list of organic Cap Classique and sparkling wines (Charmat method) is short. First and foremost there is Bon Cap, wines from the Robertson area which, because of their lime-rich soil (like those of the Champagne region in France), are conducive to producing excellent Cap Classiques.
They are fully accredited and their sparkling wines comprise a Cap Classique and Charmat. The classic grapes used for making champagne in France are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and these are also the varietals mostly used in South Africa, although Colombar is also used sometimes. Other labels to look out for are Avondale’s Cap Classique Brut, which was made from organically grown grapes, and Villiera Brut Natural 2005, which received 4½ stars from John Platter and was made solely from Chardonnay grapes. There are various organic accreditations, but all of the above wines are the result of healthy and balanced farm practices.
But thank goodness for new beginnings. As in feng shui, you can get rid of the past and begin afresh. As we charge our flutes, we can forget the underlying seriousness of things, the state of the world economy, global warming and, as we raise our glasses in a toast, the effervescent Cap Classique swirling and hissing in our flutes, we offer each other the sweet smile of optimism.