Drinks, food

Sparkling wine explained

Seeing as it is the party season, we called on Johnathan Grieve, proprietor of Avondale Estate in the Klein Drakenstein Mountains near Paarl, to give us a few tips and tricks to consider when popping a bottle of bubbles. What is the difference between sparkling wine, Méthode Cap Classique and champagne? Champagne is only produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. Sparkling wine is a wine that has carbon dioxide added to it, while Méthode Cap Classique, or MCC, refers to South African ‘champagne’ produced using the traditional champagne method. I love the bubbles in my bubbly! How can I prolong the natural fizz in my glass of MCC? As a rule of thumb, the tinier the bubbles, the better the quality of the MCC. If you want to prolong the bubbles in your bubbly, pour the MCC into your flute at an angle, so the liquid runs down the side of the glass. Fibres on the inside of a glass have also been found to influence the timing of bubble trains, capturing them and allowing them to build before they release in sparkling chains. So if you love your bubbles, dry your flutes with a clean dishtowel to leave tiny fibres behind. What’s the best way to open a bottle of bubbly? In my opinion, there are two options:

  • The polite version: Remove the foil and ease the cork out gently, inch by inch, so the cork slips out with a subtle, unobtrusive ‘pop’. In refined company, this is the most genteel and discreet method of popping the bubbly!
  • The dramatic version: For special occasions that call for much pomp and circumstance, sabrage the champage bottle using a specially designed sabre!  Sabrage is a technique whereby the sabre is quickly slid along the body of the bottle and breaks the entire neck away from the bottle, leaving only the base of the bottle open and ready to pour. The force of the backside of the blade hitting the lip breaks the glass to separate the collar from the neck of the bottle. It’s a real party trick; your guests will love it!  Note: Do not use the sharp side of the blade, but instead, turn it around to the blunt side. The cork and collar will remain together after separating from the neck.
What’s the correct way to hold the bottle when pouring a glass of bubbly? Insert your thumb in the bottle’s punt (the dimple at the bottom of the bottle), allowing the bottle to be supported by your other four fingers. It’s easiest to pour this way too. What’s the most popular form of Méthode Cap Classic? This depends on individual tastes and preferences but MCC Brut is dry and always a popular, elegant choice for most occasions. Personally, it’s the glass I have after a long day’s work! For more information visit avondalewine.co.za