Nicolas Feuillatte. Picture: Supplied
Nicolas Feuillatte. Picture: Supplied

Everything to know about champagne ahead of Johannesburg Cap Classique Festival

By Lifesyle reporter Time of article published Mar 5, 2020

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Pop the corks and kickstart the year on a fashionable high note at the Johannesburg Cap Classique and Champagne Festival. 

Proudly sponsored by Sanlam Private Wealth, the event will once again feature some of South Africa’s finest Methodé Cap Classiques, as well as a selection of France’s best Champagne houses and Italian Prosecco brands. 

In anticipation of the event, the organising team thought it was time to clear up a few myths about Champagne and address some of those questions that everyone asks. Below is everything they say you should know about the wine. 

Bollinger. Picture: Eric Zeziola

  • Champagne is made from fermented grapes following similar cultivation techniques as other wines. However, it must follow unique procedures to obtain its bubbles. Strict guidelines, along with the highly protective officially controlled designation of origin, ensure that Champagne’s identity is protected.

  • Champagne comes specifically from a region of the same name in north-eastern France. However, the wine-producing region patchworks across it and into other neighbouring regions too. To differentiate the two the beverage takes the masculine in the French language (le Champagne) whereas the region itself is feminine (la Champagne).

  • Sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it is made within this strict 35 000 hectare region.

  • Champagne is made with three major grapes. Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier (both black grapes) and Chardonnay (white grape).

  • Most Champagnes are blended. Many Champagnes blend their grapes to produce unique flavours. However, unlike wine, they even blend the years so a blend of Champagne can feature up to 30 to 50 harvests from different villages, grapes, and vintages. All to ensure that every time you open that house’s Champagne it will unquestionably taste the same. Some vintage Champagnes and blends only use one colour of grape.

  • Champagne is fermented twice. Unlike Prosecco and some Canvas, Champagne goes through intense phases of fermentation and ageing. Whereas Prosecco never leaves the stainless-steel pressurised autoclave vat until bottled for sale, Champagne spends most of its time ageing in a bottle. The grapes are fermented in vats or casks right after the press until no sugar is left. Following that, the still wine is then bottled with a mix of yeast and sugar, which is sealed with a beer cap. While it ages in the bottle, the sugar and yeast chemically react and produce gas which creates the effervescence.

  • Champagnes will age at least twelve months like this but undergo other procedures to ensure they age properly. Some will sit for far longer before they see the light of day.

  • Whereas some wines can age for decades after being bottled accumulating complexity and value, Champagne will remain in the cellar until aged to perfection. Only when they deem it ready will the houses release their wines for sale. When the time comes, the cap is removed and it is corked. Although some enthusiasts like to age their Champagnes after corking, you don’t have to. If you have a bottle, why wait and deprive yourself of the pleasure?

Nicolas Feuillatte. Picture: Supplied

The Johannesburg Cap Classique and Champagne Festival will take place at Inanda Country Club on the 4th and 5th of April from midday to 5 pm. Tickets are available at Webtickets

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