To accompany your events, our wine writer Greg Landman has compiled a list of the best bubbly for your celebrations, parties, shindigs and, well, an evening in. Cheers!
The classic way to make a bubbly is, of course, the French way, as in almost all things vinous. However, there are other ways to do it and they have their own validity. The grapes used are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with occasional Pinot Meunier.
Our top bubblies are called MCC, Methode Cap Classique, which means that they are made in exactly the same way as Champagne, and the others are carbonated, just like the Soda Stream in your kitchen. Be warned not to try this at home—as I did- unless you want a real mess in your kitchen—the wine is too dense. The first method means that the bubbles are the result of natural secondary fermentation in the bottle, a long (and costly) process, which results in delicious aromas and flavours. However, there are many excellent carbonated fizzies on the market and they are not to be scoffed at. We even now have wine in a can, a rapidly growing market in the US and Europe but which still has to take off here. These are also carbonated and are very low alcohol—about 7%. The third method is the one they call Charmat where the secondary fermentation takes place under pressure while the wine is being processed and not in the bottle as in the MCC and Champagne methods. That is how Proseccos are made which can only be called by that name if they come from the Friuli area near Venice. So rest assured that all Proseccos you see here are imported from Italy, and their prices are therefore influenced by the exchange rate. They are nevertheless delicious and well worth trying, especially with Aperol in a zingy favourite called Aperol Spritz.
Some Bubbly Terms
Mousse That delicious froth you get when you pour the wine. A strong mousse that lasts are signs of a good bubbly.
Bead The never-ending string of bubbles that keep going up ’til you drink them. If the bead is fine and lingers, these are indicators of a brilliant bottle.
Brioche A delicate yeasty or bready fragrance on the nose.
Blanc de Blanc Used to describe bubbly made exclusively with Chardonnay grapes.
Brut Used to describe a dry bottle.
Sec Also used to describe a set of bubbles as dry as well as slightly sweet.
Doux Bottles with this on the label means you are going to be in for a real sweet treat.
Rosé Varying shades of pink from salmon belly to strawberry. From the Pinot component.
Vintage All the grapes come from the year on the bottle.
Here are some of my favourites for the festive season
Chateau Del Rei Cans
Don’t judge a wine by its bottle or can in this case. These easy to knock back fizzy delights have a great deal of appeal when you’re looking for an easy drink for a picnic. And they are certainly popular as there are now three in this range. And the low alcohol content of 7% helps with the guilt factor. Serve nice and cold. Pick up a can for R16 or complete case for R299.
You also might like: Canned Wine Anyone?
Robertson Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine
This carbonated strawberry pink and tangy charmer is dry and frothy making it just the thing to knock back poolside with some Brie and crackers or if the budget fits, smoked salmon. It won’t break the bank at R59 a bottle.
Stellenbosch Hills Polkadraai Brut Sauv Blanc 2018
Made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, this cheeky little quaffer is deliciously dry. It has a cheerful polka dot livery which stands out on a shelf and is great fun at a party. Pick up a bottle from Stellenbosch Hills for R70.50.
L’Ormarins Brut Rosé NV
Franschhoek Chardonnay with some Pinot from Robertson, clean and fresh, pale pink but certainly not shy and retiring, with aromas of crushed strawberries on the nose and yeasty biscuit in the mouth. Heaven with sushi. Tuck into a bottle at R130.
Van Loveren Christina MCC Brut
There are plenty of citrus flavours in this Chardonnay-Pinot Noir blend from Van Loveren. It’s an elegant bubbly that goes swimmingly with oysters. Enjoy a glass for just R136 a bottle.
Groot Phesantekraal Blanc De Blanc 2016
Another winner from winemaker Etienne Louw, this MCC is totally delicious with an appealing nose of yeasty brioche and plenty of green apples. Louw has also allowed for 17 months on the lees which has added to its creamy complexity. And to top it all off it has a rich full mousse and endless bead. In short, it’s a winner. Sip on a glass for R140 a bottle.
Pierre Jourdan Brut
A superb and well-priced cracker of a wine that’s a gorgeous blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It’s got a nice tight bead with yeasty aromas and goes down a treat. A bottle goes for R145.
Weltevrede Philip Jonker Entheos Brut MCC
Pale and elegant with a creamy nose and brioche nuances – there’s even a lingering green pear note in there somewhere. This Chardonnay-Pinot Noir blend from master winemaker Philip Jonker in Bonnievale is a stunner. Pick up a bottle for R149.
Groote Post Brut Rosé MCC
This MCC is elegant, silky smooth and deliciously dry with the palest of subtle pink colour. Expect notes of crushed red berries making it the perfect companion for some smoked salmon. Enjoy a bottle for R155.
You also might like: Drop in at Groote Post, Darling
Krone Borealis Brut 2018
This predominantly Chardonnay – with Pinot from the 2018 harvest – has a gorgeous gold colour that’s taut, lean and fresh with very apparent citrus notes. It’s the perfect match for a creamy mushroom risotto. Find it at Woolworths for R159.99 a bottle.
Krone Night Nectar Rosé 2018 MCC
While being a Demi Sec, this vintage-only MCC has no cloying at all. The gorgeous pink-copper colour tastes as good as it looks with refreshing berry aromas and a touch of toffee apple on the palate. Enjoy a glass one afternoon with a platter of strawberries and cream and some petits fours. Pick up a bottle from Woolworths for R159.99.
Graham Beck Bliss Nectar NV
Notes of butterscotch, and honey, with plenty of tang to avoid any cloying, this charmer will be just the thing for those who find Brut just too much. Mouth-watering and succulent—fabulous with chocolate cake. Tuck into a bottle at R165.
Windfall Mendola MCC
As fragrant as newly mown hay, this gorgeous bottle of MCC has plenty of tropical fruit flavours such as peach, guava and citrus blossoms. It’s hardly regarded the world over and is an absolute gem coming out of a boutique farm in the Agterkliphoogte Valley near Robertson. Tuck in for only R200 a bottle.
L’Ormarins Blanc De Blancs 2013
Another Franschhoek gem from this famous estate, this 100% Chardonnay has spent four years on the lees followed by at least eight months in bottle. It’s taut and zesty with a slight salty tang followed by grapefruit freshness. Creamy in the mouth, this MCC has a crisp, dry and long finish. Delicious. Pick up a bottle for R220.
Kleine Zalze 2013 Vintage Brut
This vintage bubbly harvested in 2013 has just been waiting for you to discover it. This 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir blend is nice and yeasty with deep flavours topped with an elegant, rich mousse. Dip into a bottle at R222.
Le Lude Brut Non Vintage
A classic blend from a major prize-winning team at this Franschhoek cellar. At 91% Chardonnay and 9% Pinot Noir, this MCC is a real treat. It’s spent 36 months on the lees making it complex and gorgeous. Enjoy at R290 a bottle.
Marion’s Vineyards Methode Cap Classique
Apparently Marion Smith, co-owner of this biodynamic treasure in Elgin, said plaintively to her husband Brian, “What’s the point in a girl having her own vineyard if she can’t have her own bubbly?” The result is this glorious wine in an equally elegant bottle. Matured for three years in old French barrels followed by two years in the bottle, it’s a knockout with some apple flavours – irresistible. Add it to your wine bucket at R395 a bottle.
You also might like: 4 Reasons to Linger in the Elgin Valley
Graham Beck Cuvée Clive 2014
Certainly one of the finest ever made in SA, this flagship wine can stand to win a competition from anywhere as far as I am concerned. This special bottle is a magnificent 100% Chardonnay mainly from Robertson that has a complex nose and mouth. It’s far too fabulous to be sullied with any food – simply drink and think to yourself, “How do they do that?” At R780 a bottle, keep this one for special occasions.
Photography Dmitry Zvolskiy; Supplied