Cap Classique – Is there better value to be found in fizz?

2021 marks 50 years of Cap Classique wines, the incredible sparkling wines, made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier (of Champagne fame) throughout the Western Cape of South Africa. Simonsig were first out the traps, releasing Kaapse Vonkel in 1971; followed by a host of brilliant producers, each pushing each-other forward and driving quality.

As a category, their general state of dress gives Hugh Laurie’s Prince Regent in Blackadder The Third a run for his money. An excess of filigree and rouge and pomp, but wrestle them out of Mrs Miggin’s Pie Shop, get them open and they’re modern, exciting, delicious wines that we all need in our lives.

Is there better value to be found in fizz? You’d be tough pressed to argue otherwise. Made using the traditional method with an industry-wide drive towards extended ageing on the lees in the cellars to give extra complexity, these have a very similar texture, weight and structure to Champagne. They have complexity and richness and that elegance you want in a fine sparkling wine. Crucially though, you’ll struggle to find one above £20. The vast majority sit between £12.95 and £20.

If you haven’t stumbled upon that benchmark bottle of Graham Beck’s flagship non-vintage in Waitrose yet or Simonsig’s Kaapse Vonkel at The Wine Society – then it’s high time you did. It’s the right place to start your Cap Classique journey and will be the centre-point to your exploration in all directions following. They are the wine trade’s wedding fizz of choice – guests are overjoyed and so is the father of the bride if he’s picking up the tab.

Summer is upon us, and so is the long-overdue opening of restaurant doors. We must support them, we must dine together around tables indoors and fill their coffers as best we’re able. That said, the weather’s on the turn too – after a long, wet, cool May, it’s looking like we have a good few weeks of sunshine in front of us! Perhaps we can balance our responsibilities as intrepid gastronomes – I propose we picnic at lunch and roll into the restaurants as dusk!

While we’re outside on the rug, Cap Classique comes in to its own. Here’s my plan of attack for pairing three of my fave Cap Classiques with our alfresco lunch;

As you arrive at the picnic spot and waft the blanket about, you want to get a bottle of Kleine Zalze Brut NV on the go. It has a standout elegant nose – a super clean, subtle aromatic floral character of lemon citrus – fresh lemons, peel and all – berry fruit and a hint of baked bread – maybe a bit hot cross bun – it’s really welcoming, totally inviting. A great nose. The palate is dry, but not too dry – great acidity is in balance with a round, soft mouthfeel. A superb, finely structured wine. A delicious start on its own, this is prime crisps and salty nibbles wine – shellfish if you’re at THAT kind of picnic – or anything from that M&S grab-and-go section; another little manchego rolled in prosciutto, Darling? Obviously

Once the sandwiches arrive, and we’re talking smoked salmon cream cheese and the classic cucumber here, you’ll want to get into the Pongracz Rosé. I like this wine a lot – like a lot. It’s a great balance of chewy, rich red berry fruit – it’s VERY Pinot Noir – creamy, soft texture and a freshness and structure that keeps it easy drinking and quaffable. Think Raspberry, blackberry and subtle black cherry and just a hint of that Pinot earthy perfume, but just a tiny hint. Grown on iron-rich red soils, you get the minerality here and some nice autolysis in the shape of rich, round freshly baked bread. It will do unimaginable things to the salt and intensity of smoked salmon, but don’t finish the bottle – this is prime strawberries and fresh cream fizz too, so save half a bottle for the finale!

Finally, we’re heading to the upper range of Graham Beck’s great portfolio, their 2016 Blanc de Blancs. Led by the inimitable Peter Ferreira – who by merit of his jazzy shirts alone is surely a shoe in as the next Three Wine Man – this is a great example of long lees aged, mature Cap Classique. A class act, feeling totally together and confident.  Precise tropical fruit on the nose – melon, mango. Some lemon citrus, a little bit peachy. A savoury, serious bready note overlays all, not dominant, but very present. The palate is dry and mouth-watering but the fruit is rich and follows the nose. The savoury, biscuity, bready autolysis sits equal to fruit; concentrated and full-bodied. A serious wine. The finish is where it cleans up – really lovely, long, evolving layers of tense fruit and rich, savoury brioche and a subtle saline character at the end. Four words; HOT WATER CRUST PASTRY. Yes, mate. This is handmade sausage roll-ville. A perfect pairing.

A quick slug of Pongracz Rosé again, alongside those strawberries. “Has that cow been that close the whole time? I swear she’s following us” Mild confusion over how the hamper housed the myriad little plates and plastic handled cutlery before. Shove it all back in and off to the restaurant!

All wines available in the UK. Stockists below:

Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2016
£16.99 – £19.50
South Africa House of Wine
Grape Expectations

Kleine Zalze Brut NV
£15.95 – £19.95
Cheers Wine Merchants
Amps Wine Merchants
31 Dover

Pongracz Brut Rosé NV
£14.95 – £17.75
Harvey Nichols
Master of Malt
The Champagne Company

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2019
£12.95 – £14.95
The Wine Society
Lea & Sandeman

Win a ‘Classique Moment’ 
to celebrate 50 Years of Cap Classique

Cap Classique is offering an amazing prize worth more than £500 for one lucky winner and 5 friends to share a classique moment together to celebrate Cap Classique’s 50th anniversary.

The prize:

  • A gourmet picnic for 6 people packed in a beautiful wicker hamper with a picnic rug
  • 6 bottles of Cap Classique – one for you and one to give to each of your friends
  • A Drinks Box from Fieldbar (the first to arrive on British soil!)

How to win

Click here for full details and to enter

Competition closes 27th June 2021
Terms & Conditions apply – see on entry form on link above