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Understanding Cap Classique: South Africa's Fastest Growing Wine Category

If you are new to the fascinating world of Cap Classique read on because we will demystify some terminology and share some fun facts about the nation’s fastest growing wine category.

The Two Styles of Bubbly

Firstly, we would like to differentiate between two styles of bubbly to give readers a better understanding of why certain bubblies are more expensive than others. Wine that has been impregnated with CO2 bubbles is simply termed ‘sparkling wine’ and the process is very quick and affordable to produce, whereas Cap Classique undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle to create the sought-after bubbles which takes a much longer time to complete and is far riskier to produce. The second fermentation is initiated by adding extra sugar to the already fermented wine. The sugar will then naturally start up the fermentation process again until all the sugar has been converted into alcohol. Therefore, consumers can expect to pay more for a bottle of fizz labelled Cap Classique than for Sparkling Wine.

Here at De Grendel we produce two different Cap Classique wines – the Cap Classique Brut which is produced from 68% Chardonnay and 32% Pinot Noir, and the newest addition to the De Grendel stable, which is the Proposal Hill Cap Classique Brut Rosé made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes.

Only sparkling wine made in the region of Champagne in France can be called champagne. In South Africa, wine made using the same method is termed Méthode Cap Classique – made in the Cape classical method. In Spain it is called Cava, in Italy it is known as Prosecco and in Germany it is simply called Sekt (although in the production of Prosecco and Sekt the process is not nearly as risky or complex as with champagne or Cap Classique).

The first wine farm in South Africa to copy the Champagne method of winemaking, was Simonsig (Stellenbosch) in 1971 with their world-renowned Kaapse Vonkel. (‘Vonkel’ is an Afrikaans word that translates to English as ‘sparkle’).

De Grendel Wines South Africa Cap Classique Proposal Hill

But where did it all start?

The French did not create méthode champenoise intentionally, however. It was discovered by mere accident when some wine was bottled before the fermentation process was completed. Fermentation gives of gas, or CO2, which causes the bubbles, and naturally some corks started popping. Upon closer inspection did they find the wine contained bubbles and referred to it as ‘the devil’s wine’. It was only in 1844 when the muselet also known as the wire muzzle or wire cage was invented to prevent the corks from blowing out.

Fun Facts about Cap Classique

We include a few fun facts about fizz, our absolute favourite any-time wine.

  1. The pressure in a Cap Classique bottle is approximately 3 times that of an ordinary car tyre’s pressure. When popped, a Champagne cork can reach a velocity of 40km per hour. Thus, it is always advisable when opening a bottle to point it away from you to prevent injury to the face.
  2. Marilyn Monroe famously took a bath in Champagne. More than 350 bottles were needed to fill up the tub. We find it a bit grotesque, simply because we are utterly jealous.
  3. James Bond has been spotted drinking Champagne more than 35 times in his films. It is the drink he reaches for more than any other, even his shaken-not-stirred Martinis.
  4. In the 19th century, Champagne makers wore metal masks to protect their faces when handling bottles. 
  5. The Cap Classique Producers Association in South Africa was established in 1992 by a group of like-minded producers who share a passion for Cap Classique.
  6. In 2021 South African Cap Classique celebrates its 50th year.
  7. South Africa celebrates Cap Classique day every year on the 1st of September and the official hashtag is #CapClassiqueDay.
  8. Bubbly is by far the most versatile wine and can be enjoyed with breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also makes gorgeous cocktails, can be served with appetizers before a meal, or at the end of a meal to cleanse the palate.
  9. The best serving temperature for Cap Classique is 6-8°C. Anything warmer and the Cap Classique is likely to lose its flavour and delicate bubbles.
  10. There are about 49 million bubbles in a 750ml bottle of Cap Classique, and a standard-sized glass emits 30 bubbles every second.

It was Dom Pierre Perignon, the Benedictine monk who called out “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars”, when he first tasted sparkling bubbles dazzlingly foaming from a bottle of Champagne.

We suspect the monk would have been envious of our own Cap Classique.
February 18, 2021