Cap Classiques from the Museum and into the Stratosphere

If I were to throw one cork into the advocating of the brilliance of Cap Classique, it would be this wine’s remarkable ability to age and develop. Of the many examples I have had of late, I’d say an attentive Cap Classique ages far better than a non-vintage Champagne and a lot better than Jane Fonda – but without the plastic face work and lentil-water intestinal flushes.

The Cap Classique Association and sponsors Amorim Cork this week presented a public tasting of this year’s top scorers in the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge. And while the Blanc de Blancs, Rosés and Bruts were sipped and swallowed in gusto and with enormous approval, it was the two Museum Class wines that blew my lava.


First up was the JC le Roux Scintilla Vintage Reserve 2008, an eight year old fizz with a decade or two before it will reach its best. The wine if Chardonnay-led blend, with 15% Pinot Noir, and this specific ratio works perfectly. Bright Chardonnay fruit with the Pinot casting and atmospheric, stern shade.

In the Cap Classique process JC le Roux cellarmaster Elunda Basson used, the Scintilla got the full Monty: vineyard-selection, that classic Prisse de Mousse French yeast, malolactic fermentation and a hefty 84 months on the lees. The result is craftmentship that tastes like art.

A whack of sunbacked slate off-set by a shady, forest-coolness. Sliced tarte tatin, chilled in a medeival farm-house somewhere in the Luberon, gives the wine a complexity based on fruit, spice and brioche baked from stone-ground flour and Normandy butter.

But as is the case for classic fizz, texture plays lead guitar. And here the wine holds a wave of minute bubbles which burst foaming on the palate, elevating the flavours and stroking the mouth with touch, feeling and life.

What a wonderful, glorious wine.

The surprise package was the 1994 Brut from Graham Beck served from magnum. What GS 1966 is to Cabernet Sauvignon and De Wetshof Finesse 1993 to Chardonnay, this Graham Beck 1994 is to Cap Classique.

Tasting Graham Beck 1994
Tasting Graham Beck 1994

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir work off each other like a good rhythm section in a 1970’s rock band. And like those bands, a loved old leather jacket and a butt-hugging pair of aged Levi’s, it all just gets better.

The wine is maritime and oyster shell, and I am thinking this is what the sweat of a mermaid would taste like while she is filleting a blue-fin tuna. A roar of foam crashes onto the palate as those vibrant and promiscuous 22 year-old bubbles explode, wet and breathless, in your mouth. Traces of green plumb and winter melon are still there, as well as is a stroke of bread-crust. But dry, mineral and sea-bed flavours have taken over, making for a bracingly lively wine. It was an honour, Sir.

Young and eager, Cap Classique is a strong South African category from which great things shall come. But the older master-pieces are ready to pry open a new world order for something this country is truly great at.

  • Emile Joubert

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