Heading into the final month of 2017, Simonsig Estate is ending the wine calendar as the undisputed champion of Méthode Cap Classique, the bottle-fermented sparkling wine category it pioneered in 1971.
The two Double Gold medals Simonsig’s Cap Classiques won at the recent Veritas Wine Awards follows hot on the heels of the Stellenbosch Estate having been crowned Best Producer at the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge, the leading competition for this South African bubbly category. And to crown it all, Simonsig took a Double Gold at the recent Six Nations Wine Challenge held annually between Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, the USA and South Africa.
The one common factor in all these awards is the Simonsig Cuvée Royale 2012 which featured in all three wine shows. This Blanc de Blancs with 60 months lees contact won the Amorim Best Producer Trophy, one of the two Veritas Double Golds as well as the Double Gold at the Six Nations Wine Challenge.
The other Simonsig wine that raked-in the awards this year was the Pinot Noir Brut Rosé 2015 (No added-sulphur) which won the Best Rosé Trophy at the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge as well as the other Veritas Double Gold. This wine is especially made for Woolworths.
According to Johan Malan, Simonsig cellarmaster, the consistency of the recognition accorded these wines makes these achievements especially important.
“From a winemaking point of view, we are aware of the fact that every competition has panels comprising of judges with their own individual sets of criteria as well as their personal preferences,” he says. “For two of Simonsig’s Cap Classiques to receive the same high level of recognition from completely different judging panels, those being of the Amorim Challenge and Veritas, affirms the inclusive quality of the Cuveé Royale 2012 and the Pinot Noir Brut Rosé 2015.
“The Six Nations Double Gold for the very same Cuvée Royale 2012 was the cherry on the cake. I cannot think that, in the 46 years Simonsig has been making Cap Classique, any one wine has performed better than this Blanc de Blancs.”
Adding to the shine on the awards, is the fact that Simonsig was the first winery to make a South African bottle-fermented sparkling wine in the traditional method, complementing the critical acclaim this Estate continues to receive with legacy and provenance.
Malan says that the recognition not only underscores Simonsig’s indisputable class as a maker of Cap Classique, but bodes well for the category.
“In the Veritas Wine Awards as well as the Six Nations Challenge, Cap Classique competes for recognition with all other wine categories,” he says. “Any Cap Classique to receive Double Gold in these competitions underscores the inclusive quality of the category, which I believe is rapidly becoming one of South Africa’s strengths, both in the local and international market-place.”
But what of the Cuvée Royale 2012 that literally swept the boards this year?
According to Malan, the 2012 harvest followed one of the driest years in Stellenbosch. “The harvest began later than usual, and surprisingly cool conditions ensued ,” he says. “Yields were lower, but fruit concentration was magnificent with the cooler conditions ensuring high levels of acidity in the grapes – extremely important in making the base wine for Cap Classique.”
Made from 100% Chardonnay, grapes for the Cuvée Royale are hand-selected with only the finest cuvées drawn from the pressed juice chosen for fermentation. Primary fermentation took place in stainless steel to capture freshness and zest before the wine was placed in bottle for the magical secondary fermentation during which the sparkle and complexity develop whilst on the lees for 60 months.
“It is about a commitment to achieving something special in each step of the process involved in making this wine,” says Malan. “Nature delivers the grapes, and in the winery it is up to the team to oversee the wine’s development with respect, knowledge and understanding of what we at Simonsig aim to do: make the best Cap Classique possible.”