All about Méthode Cap Classique
As unfortunate as it may be, no country, apart from the small region in France called Champagne, is allowed to use the word Champagne to describe their sparkling wine. Various countries around the world have adopted different names for this style of wine from Cava in Spain, Espumante in Portugal, Sekt in Germany and Prosecco in Italy. In South Africa we use the name Méthode Cap Classique, which means “The classic method of making champagne by creating a second fermentation in the bottle in which the product is sold”. The term Cap Classique has been used in SA since 1992.
The making of sparkling wine has many similarities to the production of still wine with some noted differences. Grapes are selected from a diversity of regions in the Cape, resulting in highly individual styles. Only specific white and red grape varieties are used to ensure delicate fruit and rich complexity; these are usually Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Grapes are picked very early to ensure high acid levels in the base wines.
It is through the initiation of a second fermentation that distinguishes sparkling wine production and gives the wine its characteristic "bubbles". The introduction of a fresh yeast and food source (the sugar) triggers the second fermentation process in the bottle that the wine will eventually be sold in. One of the by-products of fermentation is the creation of carbon dioxide gas. While this gas can be released during the first fermentation, efforts are taken during the second fermentation to retain the gas and have it dissolve into the wine. This creates a high pressure within the wine bottle, several times that of your car tyre!
Once sealed with a crown cap, the bottles ferment and mature horizontally in cool, dark cellars for a minimum of twelve months. The bottle goes through the process of riddling (gradually angling the bottle until it is upside down) and eventually disgorge where the neck of the bottle is frozen in dry ice, then the crown cap is removed to expel the dead yeast cells (lees) from the wine while still maintaining the dissolved carbon dioxide gas. A dosage, mixture of fresh wine and some sugar syrup, is used to adjust the sweetness level of the wine after it has been disgorged.
Méthode Cap Classique wines are left to mature on the cork for some time to ensure integration and balance. This commitment to quality is evident in your glass every time a Méthode Cap Classique cork is popped.