Global Champagne Day: SA's love affair with champagne
Drink / 18 October 2019, 4:00pm / Lebohang Mosia and Buhle Mbonambi
Launched by the US blogger Chris Oggenfuss who wanted to honour the wine of kings, Champagne Day is a day seemingly dedicated to enjoying the bubbly drink and its origins.
We all know the story of a monk named Dom Perignon, who accidentally made what we now called champagne, calling out that it tasted like stars.
It has become one of the biggest industries in the world, with champagne producers making a killing, thanks to the world not getting enough of the sparkling wine.
But what about South Africa?
When it comes to sparkling wines, Europe one ups us. But of its Cava, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti and Sekt, the continent's prevailing effervescence is undoubtedly champagne.
“South Africa’s sparkling wine is largely made in the traditional Méthode Cap Classique, which is the exact same technique used in champagne. Rather than adding gas, it allows for a second fermentation in the bottle to create the bubbles organically,” said Tinashe Nyamoduka, head sommelier at the Test Kitchen, a Cape Town-based restaurant that took the 44th spot at World's 50 Best Restaurants 2019.
According to the Methode Cap Classique Producers’ Association, in the beginning of the millennium, 5.8 million litres of sparkling wine were consumed in the country.
In 19 years, the South African wine industry statistics, which specialises in collating and disseminating statistics about the wine industry, records that number has progressively grown to 9.4-million litres.
Michael Ellingworth, the market manager for Moët Hennessy in South Africa, said that South Africans have become even more sophisticated consumers of champagne.
“South Africans are interested in how champagne is made, what makes it a champagne and the intrinsics of the product. We constantly get asked these questions.
"We have seen the rise of champagne being mentioned and featured in a number of popular South African songs.
"This alone is illustrative of the fact that it has been embraced by the country. We have also seen a lot more interest in our full range of champagne.”
From House of BNG MCC owner Bonang Matheba's "champagne, darling" phrase to DJ Sumbody’s "less stress more champagne" lyrics on his hit song, Monate Mpolaye, champagne culture is in full force in South Africa and we see just how it's become an intrinsic part of pop culture.
Pernord Ricard’s Hussain van Roos said that growth in champagne culture has since fuelled interest in MCC and it's all rooted in the lifestyle of champagne and what it stands for as an aspiration and luxury drink.
“Over the years, a significant growth in the champagne category gave growth to MCC and champagne in itself.
"So the culture has significantly grown and keeps growing.”
There has also been a marked change in how people consume bubbly.
It's no longer about celebrations, champagne has become an everyday beverage consumed during brunch and dinner, or simply having a glass at home with friends and family.
Brands are also no longer what people automatically go for, thanks to them being more educated on bubbly.
“We are seeing premium, super premium and ultra premium champagne growth in this country with a lot of individuals opting for champagne that tickles their palates in delight.
"With that being said, people are taking an interest in the difference between vintage and non-vintage champagne, the difference being that a vintage champagne is made specifically from one year's harvest whereas non-vintage is a blend of different years.”
Pieter Ferreira, cellar master of Graham Beck, one of South Africa's oldest Méthode Cap Classique producers weighs in on the growing interest of bubbly: “A unique selling point of MCC is its provision of luxury at a much lower price than its French counterpart.
"A Dom Perignon Rosé retails for R3799 while a Graham Beck Brut Rosé goes for R165 a bottle.
"And as the South African market for sparkling wine continues to grow, figures such as Matheba add a layer of pride to the black consumer's experience.”