Moët & Chandon. Picture: Pexels
Moët & Chandon. Picture: Pexels

Time to get festive with champagne

By Buhle Mbonambi Time of article published Dec 9, 2019

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The past few years have seen a bubbly boom like no other. 

Fine champagne, prosecco, Spanish cava and of course, our own Methode Cap Classique, are a perfect addition to any celebration.

South Africa ranks 24th in the countries that drink the most champagne in the world. We rank first in the continent, and that is mostly thanks to our consumption levels. “In 2018, we consumed a total of 1  060 million bottles of champagne, and we spend just above R500 million annually on champagne,” reveals Oscar Masubelele, a champagne collector and connoisseur.

That boom has seen more sparkling wine brands being launched and our wines receiving international recognition and awards. 

So, with it officially being Dezemba and "throats officially opened" we spoke to Oscar about champagne culture in South Africa and choosing the right glass for your celebratory drink. 

Are we more discerning in our choice when it comes to champagne and sparkling wine?

Not at all. There is much education needed on champagne. For instance, the correct glass to use, how to store and age champagne. Hence, I conduct champagne classes quite often. I have in my dealing with clients found out that they are doing things incorrectly. 

Are we more brand conscious, or do we go with what tastes best? 

South Africans are brand loyal. We drink popular brands, and hence, we miss out on the best champagnes currently in the market. For example, Bollinger, Special Cuvee NV is the best we currently have in the market in South Africa and is priced reasonably, and yet, people still go for more expensive brands because of the status. 

South Africa is producing MCC that, judging from the awards, makes us world-class. But where do we actually rank amongst fine wine-producing countries?

There are quality standards that all producers adhere to voluntarily, apart from the minimum time on the lees (nine months) and the bars of pressure, which are mandatory in order to use MCC on the label. We produce the best in the world. There is no country, according to my knowledge, that can match us.

Which South African Brands are making you excited?

GM & Ahrens Cuvèe Agrandi 2012  MCC,  a 50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend. It is definitely a must-have for every collector, arguably the best-ever MCC to be produced in South Africa. Other brands like the Graham Beck Brut Rosé, House Of BNG and Charles Fox also make me very excited. 

Which is the best glass to use when drinking champagne?

A white wine glass is the best glass to drink champagne out of. Champagne flutes diminish the whole experience. The white wine glass will ensure the bubbles don’t escape too fast and ensure that the champagne breaths well. Wine drinking involves all human senses, the look, the smell and the taste and using correct wine glasses will help you enjoy the full aromas and structure if a correct glass is being used.

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