One often tends to focus on the grape range when buying or choosing red wine. “I want a pinot noir with the turkey,” for instance. That can be a mistake. A pinot from Washington is very different from one from Burgundy. Central Otago in New Zealand is yet another big pinot region with its own specific design. We had one from Patagonia that was among the most effective wines we’ve had.
That the grape variety is not always a good indication of style was underlined at the big Michelangelo Wine Awards tasting in South Africa, where I got involved as a judge previously this year. White wines from different nations and regions often have their own specific design, even if they come from grape varieties that you may believe you understand.
Here’s an evaluation of a few of the styles that you can expect from South Africa and some excellent red wines to look for from the Michelangelo tasting.
The Franschhoek Valley white wine region in South Africa, copyright BKWine Photography
South African champagne, Cap Classique But instead of grape ranges, let’s begin with something that is not a grape type. Champagne. South Africa makes quite a great deal of champagne, and of excellent quality. Here, it is called” Méthode Cap Classique “,”Cap Classique” for short, or sometimes simply MCC, if it is made with the standard approach with a second fermentation in the bottle.
One tends to standard all sparkling wines versus champagne, which in a way, is a mistake, quality in red wine is constantly a question of individual preferences, but for the sake of recommendation, I’ll do that here too.
South African MCC is often more full-bodied and fruitier than champagne. If champagne can be really austere and nearly astringent, then MCC tends to be more full-bodied, with more ripe fruit and in some cases more fragrant, citrus, flowers. In some cases they can be nearly smoky with ripe apples. South African Cap Classique will delight those who think champagne is too acidic and edgy.
Here are a few of the South African sparkling wines that we liked best at the Michelangelo Awards:
- Mariette Blanc de Blanc MCC 2016, Belle Rebelle
- Canto Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut MCC 2020
- Paul René MCC Brut 2018
- Christiena MCC Brut 2021, Van Loveren Family Vineyards
- Alvi’s Drift Personal Cellar, Brut Cap Classique
- Graham Beck Cap Classique, Ultra Brut 2016
- Graham Beck Cap Classique, Pinot Noir Rose 2017
The sea-view from Hermanus in the Walker Bay location on South Africa’s south coast, copyright BKWine … [+]