It hardly seems possible that 50 years have gone by since Frans Malan made the first Champagne style wine with a second fermentation in the bottle. After a visit to Champagne in 1968, Frans came back inspired and determined to make a sparkling wine in the same style. He started off using Chenin Blanc, still today the largest plantings of wine grapes in South Africa.
Frans Malan’s sons, now own and run the estate and the pioneering an innovation is still part of their ethos. Francois, the Estate’s Vineyardist, plants grapes in suitable places and suitable soils and with his team, delivers quality grapes to Johan, The Cellarmaster in the Cellar. Today, the Kaapse Vonkel uses the three classical grapes of Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
The wines are elevated in the cellar, blended and bottled. A shot of sugar and yeast is given to the bottle and a crown cork is applied. The second fermentation which then takes place gives off carbon dioxide which under pressure if forced back into the wine. Hence the tiny little bubbles which rush to the surface of the glass.
Frans made his own riddling racks, having seen them in Champagne. When the time came to degorged the wine, the bottle by them had been riddled to encourage the inactive yeast cells to settle on the crown cork. Maturation on the lees takes places for a number of months, sometimes years. The bottles were frozen at the top, the crown cork removed, and the little bit of wine lost was replaced by what is known as the dosage. Usually, a little sugar or perhaps a liqueur. The bottles are sometimes further aged before the fancy livery is applied.
So, we have Kaapse Vonkel. Bottled in a traditional Champagne shaped bottle before the second fermentation, closed with natural cork and a little wire muzzle. I wrote earlier about the wine. In the glass, the wine has a pale gold colour with the tiniest of bubbles rushing helter skelter to the surface and forming a crown round the edges. Whiffs of Granny Smith apples, ripe soft fleshed white peaches and a beguiling fresh baked almond biscotti aroma. On the palate, the excitement of the bubbles adds so much to the pleasure, there is a golden thread of acidity running through from entry to the long and gently waning aftertaste. Red berries and citrus fill the mid palate. Impressive historic glass.
This wine style is now known as Méthode Cap Classique or colloquially as MCC.
For the 2015 vintage of this truly great wine, Johan Malan won the 40th Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award. Appropriate for the whole Simonsig team that Frans’s legacy should be honoured in this way
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