Written by Clifford Roberts; Photography Johan Viljoen
* In our opinion
When it comes to the end of a year, you don’t want to settle for anything; you want the best South African sparkling wine you can lay your hands on. Fortunately, you’ve stumbled across this blog and the Swartland’s bubbly offering.
So, what’s the best South African sparkling wine? We’re totally unbiased when we point to wines from the Swartland. The Swartland has vineyard sites at a wide variety of locations, providing winemakers with the opportunity to make wines in all kinds of styles. Here you’ll find possibly the biggest variety of bubblies, everything from gentle perlé to full-blown cap classiques – all excellent and all ideal for summer refreshment and celebration.
The Riebeek Valley Wine Company recently launched Pieter Cruythoff Brut Rosé, which has apparently been flying off the shelves. It’s the second bubbly for the winery and joins a straight Brut version under the same label. If it’s a lighter bubble you’re after, try the winery’s Tiqitini Moscato Light and Tiqitini Rosé, both lower alcohol offerings.
Swartland Winery started producing wine from 15 member farms in 1948 and, within two years, 48 member farmers were supplying 2 500 tons of grapes annually. Today, Swartland Winery puts out some two million bottles per year and exports around 60% to more than 45 countries. Its premium wines are produced in a separate, smaller cellar within the winery. Very popular at this time of the year are its Swartland Cuvee Brut, made from Sauvignon Blanc, and Swartland Semi Sweet Rosé. It also has two non-alcoholic, sparkling grape juice offerings – a red and a white.
Methode in the madness
Dragon Ridge is a boutique organic winery on the famous Paardeberg whose ranges include bubblies with a stellar slant. There’s the Blanc de Blanc (Chardonnay) cap classique named after the constellation of Orion’s Belt; and, Supernova Methode Ancestrale, after the gigantic and luminous explosion of a star. According to owner winemaker Johan Simons, the latter wine is made in the ancestral French way, “which, unlike MCC, adds nothing to the fermentation in the bottle, using only its own sugars and wild yeasts”. Its pink colour comes from the inclusion of Pinotage while the rest of the wine comprises Chenin blanc.
Willie and Emma Dreyer’s Leeuwenkuil is well known for its diverse wine portfolio. Perhaps less so are its Methode Ancestral expressions, employed in making a Brut Chenin Blanc and Brut Rosé.
Off the beaten track
Johan “Stompie” Meyer crafts his Mother Rock wines on Piketberg Mountain. They include a variety of light sparklers in the range of Force Celeste, among them a Cuvée Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Cinsault – all ideal gifts for the wine friend who has everything. . (Read more about this and other Pet-Nat wines of the Swartland in a previous article).
If just naming a wine could win you a prize, Testalonga would be among the front-runners. The winery of Craig and Carla Hawkins in the Swartland’s Bandit’s Kloof at the foot of the Piekenierskloof pass produces amongst others, the I Am The Ninja sparkling chenin blanc and I Wish I Was A Ninja sparkling colombard. Craig likes to get to the heart of the matter and makes natural, naked wines with minimal interference in the wine making process.
Timeless and delicious
Mediterranean cultivars dominate among the 110ha of vines on the 300ha Kloovenburg. Apart from knowing its wines, most regulars to the Riebeek Valley will be familiar with its farmstays and relaxed restaurants on the farm and, under the Eight Feet brand, at the top of the Bothmaskloof Pass. No doubt the biggest wines enjoyed at these locations is Kloovenburg’s Grenache Brut NV sparkling wine – ideal for enjoying with friends, views, sunsets, celebrations or as mere refreshment.
Another family-owned enterprise in the Riebeek Valley is Pulpit Rock, farmed by the Brink Family. It makes amongst others the Louisa Cap Classique Brut, made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and affectionately named after the matriarch of the family Louisa Brink.
Org de Rac is a contemporary pioneer of organic vines in the Swartland. Under cellarmaster Lizelle Gerber it makes the La Verne Cap Classique, which takes centre stage in the estate’s oyster-and-bubbly pairing. This special wine adds flair to any festive occasion.
The everything shop of the best sparkling wines
If you’re strapped for time in the search for the best sparkling wines for the festive season, visit the Wine Kollective – a renowned wine retailer in Riebeek Kasteel. It makes no small claim as being “the only wine outlet in Riebeek Kasteel, the Swartland and maybe even the known universe that is solely dedicated to the special wines of the small, the famous and the utterly unknown wineries situated within a two-hour donkey ride from Riebeek Kasteel”.
*In our opinion!