Western Cape Sparkling Rosé

At 1,000 meters, the rock faces of Saronsberg (aka. Saron Peak Mountain) begin a green cascade of rumpled ridges and gullies down into the valley at its base. Since time immemorial, the mountain’s form has been carved by the buffeting rains and twisting currents of the South-easterlies: the fierce polar winds that blow across the Cape in Spring through early Summer. In 1488, the intrepid Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias, fought his way through the churning seas that frame Africa’s southern tip. He depicted this harrowing sail by christening it Cabo das Tormentas (‘Cape of Storms’). The winds have continued their bluster over the centuries, but with the benefits of accumulated maritime experience and sturdier ships, sailors have embraced the more optimistic: Cabo da Boa Esperanza (‘Cape of Good Hope’). The retitling is also credited to Bartolemeu, to whose astonishment on a returning voyage, realized that he’d discovered the elusive sea route to India. What was less apparent then, was that he was blindly sailing past the rich potential of one of the world’s best wine regions–now home to some of its most accomplished wine makers!

In the 15th century, indigenous herders known as the Khoi occupied the coastal ranges of the Western Cape. They were decidedly unwelcoming to the first wave of European intruders, predictably cutting them down as soon as they stepped ashore. It would take another two centuries of cajoling before the French Protestant Huguenot and Dutch immigrants were allowed to share in the land’s potential for settlement. 300-years on from the earliest cultivation of wine grapes, development of South Africa’s Vinelands continues, with new zones being added or expanded in each succeeding generation.

This week’s DéClassé featured Twee Jonge Gezellen (‘two young companions’) is an estate established in 1710–and a dynamic example of the agricultural vision that’s been inherited. Despite cyclical ups and downs, the infusion of new investment is bearing more fruit than ever. Their property lies in the Tulbagh Valley 125 km northeast of Cape Town and is the next outlying wine region beyond better known Stellenbosch, Frankshoek and Paarl. With sloped vineyards in the sheltering shadow of Saronsberg mountain, the so-called ‘rainmaker’ also provides an ample supply of irrigation. Elsewhere, without appropriate drainage and a counterbalance of heat, the abundant rainfall levels might be problematic. Here, there’s a balance of conditions in the 30-hectare terroir, which the Krone family anticipated in the 1950’s when they began planting noble varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is the South African term for a bottle-fermented production method that yields sparkling wines. As the young wine is also left to rest on its lees (expired yeast), imparting the tell-tale toasted notes, this style emulates the classic French méthode Champenois. What’s more regionally innovative is cool night-harvesting, and a follow-on of cold temperature fermentation; both critical adaptations to the hot growing climate that can otherwise dull the brightness and acidity in white wine grapes. In this well-crafted sparkler, Krone Cuvée  Brut Rosé 2017, it’s the 85% Pinot Noir that’s left in contact with the skins during first fermentation that imbues a light pink hue into the final blend, along with a 15% splash of Chardonnay.

Remarkably, this modest $18.95 bottling carries its vintage year, which is relatively unusual across all price-points for premium sparkling wine. More typically, the vintner will hold batches of previously finished wine–to be judiciously added into the current vintage; maintaining year-to-year consistency. Here, as in so many facets of modern SA winemaking wisdom, the vintner elects to let each harvest reveal its unique character, with less intervention. Evidently, 2017 was a splendid year. Buy two; serve well-chilled to add a delightful splash of pink mousse to your Thanksgiving meal!

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #130047 | 750 mL bottle
Price $18.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Tulare, South Africa
By: Vinimark Trading
Release Date: September 29, 2018

Tasting Note
This refreshing sparkler with a refined mousse offers flavours and aromas of pomegranate, red berries and citrus accents. As expected from the fermentation method, it also finishes with some subtle baking notes. Try serving as apéritif with herbed cheese crostini, a roast Goose stuffed with apple or baked smoked ham.