When finding it difficult to explain my preferences, I always refer to the great works of classical culture. Take my love of pink, rosé sparkling wines. In their epic song “Hotel California”, The Eagles did not sing “Mirrors on the ceiling/the lees-matured Champagne on ice”. Nor …”the vintage Blanc de Blancs on ice”. No, it was “pink” Champagne they roped in to colour one of the most magnificent seven minutes of rock music in history.
Champagne and Cap Classiques are given an extra veneer of style and slight decadence when carrying an enchanting pink hue, enhancing a kind of wine whose bubbles and zest already add style and grace to whichever lifestyle you choose to embrace.
Unlike pink liberals, rosé coloured Cap Classiques are a fine set of South African products offering enormous enjoyment to millions of sparkle lovers and serve to sex-up the Cap Classique category which – dissimilar to its product – is a bit lacklustre from an organisational point of view.
I would be the first to admit that the major difference between a Brut Rosé and a Brut or Blanc de Blancs is the enchanting colour, varying from onion skin and fresh lipstick-smear to cranberry juice and soda.
But it is not about the colour alone. Pinks taste different, the result of the red grape skins needed to impart the required shade to the wine. This means Pinot Noir, obviously as it is the classical standard along with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, but in South Africa the black-skinned Pinotage is often added to bring out the colour.
And what a friend do we have in Pinotage when it comes to Cap Classique. Take Villiera’s Tradition Brut Rosé, a wine I have been slurping in copious amounts for 27 years – according to my wine notes. This wine has all of a healthy 30% Pinotage component along with 40% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier.
Most of the colour is derived from adding a 2% component of a specially prepared Pinotage wine to the base wine, which when sent to the bottle for second ferment spends 18 months on the lees.
The result is a crystal example of how the structure of a rosé sparkle differs from a regular glass of the magic bubbly stuff.
Drier tannins form an engaging, welcome grip, so typical of a pink one. And thanks to Villiera’s diligent and patient autolysis programme, the bright berry flavours of the black fruit has married with the more floral, citrus characters the Chardonnay element brings.
Palate weight is dense, but brimming with luxurious layers of bubbles and life-affirming effervescence. A stony, salty serious element gets lit-up by wafts of Turkish Delight (prior to the refugee crisis), rose petals and a smidgen of strawberry confit.
Yet, through all this, everything one wants from a great Cap Classique is there: Cold. Noisy. Fun to drink. Bracing. One pink I am always keen to sink.
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé is predominantly Pinot Noir, but also gets a whack of Pinotage which like in the above wine, fleshes things out.
Pinot Noir on its own can get a bit anal during the bottle-fermentation, turning all broody and sullen, waiting for some sourpuss to discover a sort of revelation. But give it some Pinotage, and Sourpuss Madame Pinot Noir gets talking like an old Kugel who’s had the debt cleared from her Woolworths shopping-card.
Oyster shell and fresh kelp break out of the glass, but a soft, tame breeze of spring follows. Blossom aromas are in the air, a few bees are carrying sweet pollen and the ripe, dark berries are crunchy and fresh.
Add 50 million bubbles – the number found in one glass – and it is Cap Classique at the top of its game.
– Emile Joubert