Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kaapse Vonkel vertical tasting at Simonsig

Yesterday morning, at Simonsig, we enjoyed being part of a media group at a really interesting vertical tasting of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel, definitely one of our favourite sparkling wines, both the elegant brut and the very special, award winning Brut Rosé, the perfect wine for any celebration. This was the first marque in this country to use the Champenoise (Cap Classique, if we are to be politically correct) method of creating the bubbles by a second fermentation in the bottle. After a glass of the most recent vintage, 2008, when we arrived, we went upstairs to the van Niekerk Room in their Cuvée restaurant, for the formal tasting.
This began with the 2010 base wines, chardonnay and pinot noir, both of which had been picked in an early stage of ripeness to produce the highly acidic wines essential for the development of a good sparkling Brut.

We then tasted the 2007 and 2006 vintages, the latter in two versions, one disgorged in August 2007, the other very recently. A huge difference had been made by the extra 2½ years on the lees. The early bottling showed subtle white toast aroma, with a soft mouse and a long dried apple finish. The newer bottling was much richer, with a gentle mousse, ripe melon and white toast aromas leading to a delicate marmite toast flavour on the finish.

The next flight brought us the 2005 vintage in standard bottle and magnums. This wine won the most recent WINE magazine MCC challenge in the 750ml bottle and came second in the magnum. The 750ml showed white toast character with a gentle mousse, while the magnum showed a little more acidity and a little more marmite yeast character on the nose. Both had a lovely long bready finish.

The final flight was the 2003 vintage followed by a 1999 (disgorged two days earlier), a 1992 and the 1987, which was the first vintage to use only the classic Champagne grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – the first modern Kaapse Vonkel. The 2003 had a rich, yeasty white bread nose with a soft gentle mousse. A gentle marmite/strawberry jam flavour went through on a long finish. The 1999 had very little mousse, unsurprising as it had only just been disgorged, but had a very rich toasty aroma and cooked apples with a little marmite on the palate into a consistent long finish. The nose on the 1992 was a little shy, but had hints of strawberry jam, which followed through in the mouth, developing into a yeasty flavour which stayed in a long finish. The 1987 had passed its best, and had distinctly sherried nose and flavour and an amazingly lively mousee, considering its age.

We were given a most interesting insight into the development of a good sparkling wine. This was the first vertical tasting Johan Malan had hosted and we hope that its success will lead to more like it, at Simonsig and at other producers.