There is something magical about toasting to friendships, family and good fortune with a glass of crisp bubbly in hand. From the elegant shape of the flute to the delicate spray that sparkles and pops in the glass, bubbly is renowned for celebration. And has been for over 200 years! It’s no surprise then that many of us take part in this ritual yet may have no idea why.
John Woodward, founder of the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show – the fastest-growing national wine exhibition that returns to PE for its sixth consecutive time between 30th July and 1st August 2015 at The Boardwalk Convention Centre – explains.
Bubbles are steeped in history: The tradition of celebrating with bubbly is historically associated with luxury and the parties of the royal courts where the expensive beverage was viewed as a status symbol. Visually bubbly delivers in every way, since it overflows in abundance and joy with its tiny bubbles rising to the occasion. Yet according to legend, the bubbles found in sparkling wine were the result of a complete faux pas in the wine-making process in France at the time. Luckily the problem of secondary fermentation that led to the development of bubbles was never rectified but rather refined.
It’s also believed that the producers of one of the greatest French Champagne brands made it their life’s work to perfect the ultimate glass of bubbly through the process of riddling and disgorgement. Sparkling wine around the world is now neither overly sweet, has big bubbles or appears cloudy.
Is it MCC or Sparkling Wine? Wine-making in South Africa dates back over 300 years to 1659 and our wine-makers know a thing or two about producing world-class cultivars from thriving vineyards. The Western Cape’s climate is similar to that of France, Spain and Italy, which are some of the greatest wine-producing regions in the world, and why our wines are as good (if not better?) than theirs.
While many people still refer to sparkling wine as Champagne, strict legislation and a trade agreement has been in place since 1992 that prevents bubbly producers outside of the Champagne region in the north of France calling their sparkling wines Champagne.
South African wine-makers use two methods for producing sparkling wines and one of them replicates the traditional Champagne method of producing bubbles while the other is a well-known Italian method called Charmat. To distinguish between the two in South Africa, wines made using the Champagne method are labelled as Methodé Cap Classique (or MCC) and the other as Sparkling Wine. This method was first used by a wine-maker in Stellenbosch in 1971, making it the first bottle of sparkling wine ever produced in a South African cellar.
How to drink bubbly: It must be served and drank icy cold. Never yank the cork out and remember elegance is key. What you’re looking for is a soft pop, which preserves the bubbles. Only remove the wire caging when you are ready to pour. Pressure may have built up inside the bottle which could force the cork out too quickly. Always tilt your glass when pouring bubbly and hold the glass by the stem to keep it cold. It’s fashionable to enjoy bubbly with classic canapés such as oysters, cheese and strawberries. Chefs far and wide use bubbly as the ideal complement to their dishes.
Sarah Graham; respected foodie, author, cooking show host and blogger from www.afoodieliveshere.co.za says, “More and more, I feel that bubbly is being poured not just for extra special occasions with multiple layers of snobbery, but a little more casually and a little more often, to celebrate life. And I for one am not complaining! The more exposure we have in South Africa to excellent quality bubbles for a relatively inexpensive price (compared to global prices, we are so spoilt in SA) also means that we can pair it with food that’s a little simpler, unintimidating but still beautiful.” She suggests pairing bubbly with Prawns in Tarragon Butter, Rosemary Panacotta with Spiced Clementine Syrup or Fig & Camembert Skewers with Honey Salted Caramel.
Try until you find your taste: With more than 150 bubbly producers countrywide it’s easy to become overwhelmed when choosing your favourite. So to find out what you like best, get tasting! At this year’s sixth annual TOPS at SPAR Wine Show – taking place between 30th July and 1st August at The Boardwalk Convention Centre – visitors can try some of South Africa’s top bubbly producers at the Bubbly Bar or directly from the exhibitors.
Tickets to the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show are available in advance through www.wineshow.co.za for R100 or at the door for R120 and include a crystal tasting glass, all tastings, access to the Wine Extra Theatre and a map to help navigate the show. Weekend passes for R180 are also available.
- Dates: Thursday 30th July – 1st August 2015
- 17h00 – 21h00 (Thursday & Friday)
- 12h00 – 21h00 (Saturday)
- Venue: The Boardwalk Convention Centre