Whether it is the yearly family reunion, Chanukah, Christmas lunch or New Year’s Eve, the festive season is made for celebrating with friends and family, a glass of bubbly in hand. Finding the right sparkling wine, MCC or Champagne can sometimes be a confusing experience.
Below are 5 steps from Carrol Boyes Wines winemaker, Hendrik Snyman, on how to pick the perfect bubbly for any occasion:
1. How to tell the difference between a Sparkling Wine, MCC or Champagne?
Not all sparkling wines are MCC or Champagne – many sparkling wines are “still” wines that have been carbonated, in the way that a soft drink is made. An MCC, or methode Cap classique, refers to a wine that has been fermented in the bottle.
This fermentation process is somewhat similar to the way that Champagne is made, but there is a difference in the selection of grapes. Champagne is made from certified grapes, which only come from a specific region in France, which allows them to maintain their exclusive rights to the name “Champagne”.
There is also Cava from Spain that is also region specific and Prosecco from Italy, which is made from a particular grape variety.
2. Sweet or dry?
The amazing range of sparkling wines, MCC and Champagne on offer means there is something to fit every occasion. For a dry taste, look for “extra brut” on the label. For something dry plus a little sweet, look for “brut” or “demi-sec – that's even a bit sweeter” instead. Depending on the occasion you can serve one type for pre-dinner drinks and another at dinner.
Really what you should look for is the appearance - notice the colour of the champagne and size and finesse of the bubbles. High quality Champagne has a light-gold or pale yellow appearance and will be crystal clear, with defined bubbles. Younger Champagnes will be lighter, while older ones will be darker.
The smaller the bubbles, the better the Champagne. Smaller bubbles mean you get a nice smooth consistency which means it’s light on the palate as you drink it and a more pleasant experience.
4. Get something special
Why not get something truly special this festive season and toast the New Year in true style? The newly released Carrol Boyes Limited Edition Champagne celebrates quality, style, excellence and authenticity and is a real gem in the South African market. Made from 100 percent Chardonnay, this vintage is a celebration of the matured chardonnay grapes grown in the prestigious Grand and Premier Cru vineyards of Champagne.
5. Chill, serve and relax
There are many stylish ways to serve Champagne, but which actually best enhances the flavours, bringing the best of the bottle into the spotlight? The answer is a tulip glass or flute with enough space for the aromas but not so much that you lose all the bubbles. It’s essential to chill the bottle for 4 hours minimum so the Champagne is served at 6 to 8 degrees. When opening, twist the bottle, not the cork, at a 45 degree angle, and tilt the glass to stop the mousse rising.
(image: iStock) Wander off the beaten track and discover lesser known but equally (if not more) delicious bubblies to pop open at your New Year's or year end celebration. These farms value minimal intervention in the cellar, produce European-influenced but proudly South African MCCs in smaller and more precious quantities that have stories to share with each "cheers".