Cap Classique, an exciting category for South African wine

Last fall in Franschhoek, Goode and I spent a morning tasting through 50+ Cap Classique, together with a handful of winemakers. It was the third such tasting we’ve participated in over the years, organized by Pieter Ferreira and the Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA). 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of Cap Classique (previously known as Méthod Cap Classique) production in South Africa, and as it was the first time Goode and I were back to South Africa together since late 2019, it was a perfect time to catch up on the category.

The name Cap Classique was coined in 1992, by the fledgling CCPA, an organization that Pieter chairs today. At that time, a group of quality sparkling winemakers came together in an effort to differentiate themselves from the sea of cheap tank fermented and CO2 injected fizz flooding the market. The name references the Cape (Cap) while also making an association with strong French Huguenots heritage of the country. ‘Cap’ also has a double meaning as the closure for the secondary ferment in bottle. When we tasted together in fall 2022, there were 104 members of CCPA, encompassing 95% of all traditional method sparkling production in the country.

Much more than a marketing board, the CCPA also works to establish and codify production methods, ensuring quality. In 2023, the base wine will have to be whole bunch pressed, with a minimum of 12 months on lees prior to disgorge. There’s talk of a Cap Classique ‘superior’ category in future, with more stringent guidelines (such as grape variety). The CCPA also began a Cap Classique Academy in 2021, committed to teaching and training about MCC in three levels of learning, facilitated by the Cape Wine Academy.

Cap Classique remains a fast growing category, experiencing double digit growth over the past 4 years. Most of the category is consumed at home, with only 20% heading off to the export market. The UK has been particularly CC-friendly, with 75,000 CC cases imported in 2021.

Our tasting was enlightening, seeing Cap Classique’s evolution three years along (our last report from fall 2019). There were a number of new (to us) producers and labels to discover, and a strong quality level overall, with the classic producers showing maturity and consistency with their wines. However, there were a few recurring faults (lightstrike, oxidation, sulphur usage) that kept popping up. We’ve detailed thoughts on each category below, following the flow of our tasting.

One thing I encourage serious Cap Classique producers to do, as I encourage all traditional method sparkling producers worldwide, is provide more information about what goes into the bottle. We understand that marketing teams have big sway over how the labels look. If you don’t have the option to put KEY details like fruit source (including soils, altitude), vini, ferment, reserve wine, time on lees, dosage (preferred to RS), and disgorge date on the label, then I strongly urge you to consider having a QR or numerical code for people to read more, or at least provide generalized details (updated annually) on your website. If you want to be taken seriously as a wine, and a wine region, you must go beyond “fun and fruity, pairs with braai.”


This is a category that has grown considerably, with at least 23 products in market, and the vast majority sold domestically. The Nectar name gives this higher dosage category more leeway than using demi-sec, which is internationally bound by sugar levels. Blanc versions of the style are currently outselling the rosés. It’s a trend seen worldwide, led by the glamourous nightclub allure of Demi-Sec Champagne.

Simonsig Satin Nectar Rose 2021
This blend of 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinotage was fermented in stainless, with 15 months on lees, and an RS of 38 g/L. Light pink in hue, with strawberry, raspberry, orange notes, and a smart balance of sweetness and fruit across a silken palate. 88/100 (TR)

Bright pink in colour, this has lovely sweet cherry and pear fruit with some citrus brightness. Pure in an off-dry style with lots of appeal. Shows fruit brightness with a spicy flourish on the finish. 89/100 (JG)

Twee Jonge Gezellen Night Nectar Blanc de Blancs 2018
This Chardonnay was naturally fermented in foudres with full MLF before heading to bottle and 36 months on lees. This richer style is distinctly off dry, with a developed sweet biscuit core and baked apple, finishing with a trail of butterscotch. Aspirational for the style. 89/100 (TR)

Honeyed and toasty on the nose. Concentrated and sweet with nice intensity. Powerful and textured with lovely depth and richness. Shows complexity. 91/100 (JG)

Twee Jonge Gezellen Night Nectar 2020
This blend of 67% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Noir, and 6% Pinot Blanc is deeper hued and fruit-forward, with ample orchard fruits and candied apple along the sweeter palate, finishing with a shorter, pasty note. Chill well. 88/100 (TR)

Fruity and lively with some cherry and pear, and nice depth. Has some sweetness and also a bit of citrus freshness. Satisfying and pure. 89/100 (JG)


This is quite a wide ranging category, which can be useful for innovation in the hands of smart producers. However, it can also provide a catchall / dumping ground for wineries with extra fruit and no still wine market. According to one CC winemaker “there are a lot of cowboys out there just using this [category] because they have fruit they don’t know what to do with.” Chenin often appears in this category, which can prove tricky in some cases, as the grape, much like Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc, doesn’t take well to extended autolysis. Certainly winemaking skill won out over bold innovation in this category, as the scores showed.

Bosman Family Loose Cannon 2019
This Chenin was barrel fermented with 6 months on lees and 8 months in tank prior to heading to bottle for secondary ferment, where it rested for 17 months prior to disgorge, with a dosage from sun-sweetened / concentrated Chenin grapes. While Chenin’s acidity was present, there was a strong off-putting oxidative front, with sharp-edged fruit, ketchup chips, and a bitter finish. 85/100 (TR)

Pronounced toast and nut on the nose, with bright citrus. Powerful, tangy and dry with a lovely hint of cheese and spice on the palate. Lovely intensity here: quite distinctive and savoury. 90/100 (JG)

Delaire Graff Estate Sunrise Brut NV
Inspired by the Loire, this blend of 64% Chenin Blanc (some bush vine), 30% Chardonnay (from Elgin’s Charles Fox), and 6% Cabernet Franc was fermented separately over two weeks and then blended for 7 months (no MLF) prior to heading to bottle for 15 months’ rest on the lees. Red apple, pear blossom perfume carries some snappy buzzy acidity, through the shorter bitter orange finish.  Somewhat disjointed, with the 9.9g/L RS jockeying with the 10.2% TA. 87/100 (TR)

Powerful, expansive and toasty with apple, pear and lemon notes. There’s a lovely precision to this wine, as well as depth of flavour. Very stylish. 92/100 (JG)

DeMorgenzon Chenin Blanc Cap Classique 2019
These Chenin grapes were cooled and whole bunch pressed, with the half native fermented in stainless stopped mid-way to retain some sugar, and the barrel fermented native fermented to dryness, with periodic battonage, over 10 months. After blending and bottling, this rested 18 months before disgorgement with a Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (from French cask) bringing the RS to 3.5 g/L. Quite creamy and toasty, with an alluring doughy core and apple fruit offset by Chenin’s streaming acidity, driving this forward to the lengthy finish. Nice depth and completeness. 91/100 (TR)

Crystalline and nicely toasty on the nose with some pear and apple notes, as well as some peachy richness. Lots of flavour impact here with depth and intensity, a bit of structure. Has a bit of grip on the finish. 90/100 (JG)

Ken Forrester Sparklehorse 2019
This Chenin, off a cool vineyard site aged for 8 months on lees prior to heading to bottle for 28 months sur lattes. Spiced yellow apple, yellow plum carries ample toast across a very creamy core. Welcoming and friendly. 89/100 (TR)

Highly aromatic with toast, apple and honey. The palate is vivid with good acidity and some nice grip. Firm and savoury with nice flavour. 89/100 (JG)

Genevieve NV Brut Rosé 2020
This Botrivier Shiraz is all about expressing grape and area. Pouring a darker cherry hue, this fruit-forward fizz has a lovely lightly grippy texture, with pithy grapefruit, wild cherry and darts of tart pomegranate making an appearance across a fuller palate. Lovely balance and depth here in this surprisingly charming rosé. 90/100 (TR)

Full pink/red colour. Flavours of stewed strawberries and cherries with some fine spicy hints. Bold and sweetly fruited with nice intensity, and a dry finish. 89/100 (JG)


Traditional method rosé can be a challenge, as red grapes not carefully handled can create a coarse / rustic profile in the finished wine. It’s not the same as making a blanc bubbly, and takes more winemaking knowledge to achieve best form. The top examples tasted here were treated delicately, leaving an elegant silkiness to the fruit. It takes a fine hand anywhere in the world, including Champagne of course, to realize that elegance in rosé.

Colmant Brut Rosé NV
This Pinot Noir led pink has an ample portion of Chardonnay (25%) to bring about fresh elegance, with 10% of the Pinot Noir added seeing skin time to amp up the hue and structure. 15% of the base wine was barrel fermented, and there is 15% perpetual reserve added in prior to 24 months in bottle sur lattes. Quite elegant, with wild strawberry, cherry along a streamline, saline frame, all lined with a fine cushion of doughy lees. The RS of 7.1 g/L is easily gobbled up with the lifted acidity and depth of fruit. 92/100 (TR)

Bright pink colour. Lively, bright and clear with lovely precision. Citrussy with some redcurrant. Juicy and lively with nice acid line. Such precision to this wine, which is linear and dry. 92/100 (JG)

Le Lude Agrafe Brut Rosé 2013
This is an aspirational rosé that fully achieves its lofty goals. This blend of Pinot Noir (69%), Chardonnay (18%) and Pinot Meunier (13%) came from 4 different parcels, fermented separately and blended to complement. As the name reveals, the second fermentation happened under cork (Agrafe method), allowing additional oxygen exchange and development.  This spent 92 months on lees, disgorged in June 2021 and spending a further 16 months on the new cork prior to release. The aged autolysis here is evident and massaged carefully, with layers of cherry dough, wild raspberry, lemon pith on the expansive palate. The agrafe is well suited to the rosé, imparting savoury subtleties to this developed style. 93/100 (TR)

Agrafe rosé. Lovely warmth here: some toast and spice with nice citrus and cherry fruit, as well as some strawberry. Fine and expressive with lovely finesse and refinement. 94/100 (JG)

Lomond Wine Estate Brut Rosé 2020
Done entirely in stainless, this youthful Pinot Noir pink carries bitter, sharper red fruit, with cherry and tart cherry on the palate, finishing with a sticky, shorter finish. 85/100 (TR)

Lovely toastiness on the nose with peachy fruit on the palate, and some strawberry notes. Quite broad and soft on the palate. 87/100 (JG)

L’Ormarins Brut Rosé 2017
This 55% Pinot Noir / 45% Chardonnay blend comes from Elandskloof and Darling fruit, with 24 months on lees and 5 months on cork prior to release. Pale in hue, with, light strawberry, and tight lemon across a great buzzy base, finishing with a fine chalky finish. Smart. 90/100 (TR)

Fruity and bright with nice acidity and some cherry and citrus fruit. Lovely presence here. Some slight sappy hints. Lively style. 91/100 (JG)

Lourensford Brut Rosé 2018
This blend of 60/40 Pinot Noir / Chardonnay spent 6 months in tank on lees, with 7% transferred to 205L French barrels half way through. Once in bottle, this rested sur lattes for 30 months, disgorged and left with 5.1 g/L RS. This fruit-forward pink is built around a creamy cherry, red apple base, dusted with pastry, and finishing briefly. 88/100 (TR)

Cranberry and strawberry on the nose with some tart fruit and a juicy finish. Crisp dry style with appealing toasty hints under the fruit. Has a bit of grapefruit pith on the finish. 90/100 (JG)

Rickety Bridge Brut Rosé NV
This blend of 54% Chardonnay, 46% Pinot Noir spent 36 months on lees before disgorging, leaving 6.7 g/L RS. Unfortunately the clear bottle has left this lightstruck, with red apple and ketchup chips on a short, blunted, sharper palate, finishing almost gritty. 83/100 (TR)

Nice fruit: citrus and pear with some cherry. Good acidity with a slight spiciness and some salty notes on the finish. Some light strike here alas. 85/100 (JG)


By far the largest category in Cap Classique, these are Brut blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and sometimes Pinot Meunier, the latter little seen in South Africa so far, though some new plantings are underway. While most are dosed in the 6-8 g/L realm, the category is following the international trend towards lower, and even zero dosage, in some cases. The lowest dosages still seem reserved for the Blanc de Blancs category, however. Most seem to be a vintage year, with the majority of NVs creating a base of the current and previous years. Only the most serious producers are putting resources into a reserve wine program, and that attention to detail stands out. This was a solid category, as usual, with many big players playing it relatively safe, and a few forward-looking wineries at the edge pushing the envelope.

Allee Bleue Wines Brut 2016
This blend of 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay is bedded on candy apple and pastry, wrapping around a sweet lemon core. The 8.7 g/L RS snips the finish a tad short. 87/100 (TR)

Fresh and juicy with bright lemon fruit and a touch of green apple. Vivid and fresh with compact fruit on the palate and subtle toasty hints. Nice fruit here. 88/100 (JG)

Bon Courage Estate Jacques Bruére Brut Reserve 2013
The base wine of this 60/40 Pinot Noir / Chardonnay spent 8 months on lees in stainless, with 10% of the Chardonnay fermented in barrel. Once in bottle this spent 96 months on lees, finishing with 5.6 g/L RS. This toasty wine has a grippy sharp lemon edge, with a fine, tight acid line streaming the doughy white cherry fruit to a bitter finish. 89/100 (TR)

Warm, rich and toasty on the nose with honey, nuts and ripe peach. Lively toasty palate with lots of impact, and a fresh, dry finish. A rich toasty style.

Colmant Brut Reserve NV
This Brut blends Pinot Noir (52%) and Chardonnay (48%) from Franschhoek, Robertson, with 10% fermented in older barrels and the remainder in stainless. There is 20% reserve wine here from a perpetual reserve, and at least 30 months on lees prior to disgorge. Very finessed, with perfumed cherry, crisp apple driven by the lemony chardonnay acid line. Quite elegant and lengthy. 93/100 (TR)

Base vintage is 2019, with some oak component. Fresh and lively with lovely pure lemon and cherry fruit. Very fine and expressive with a bright, tapering finish and good acidity. Tight knit but with lovely fruit and potential for development. Very fine. 94/100 (JG)

Domaine des Dieux Claudia Brut Cap Classique 2015
Predominantly Hemel-en-Aarde Chardonnay, with 18% Pinot Noir, this was fermented in stainless prior to 72 months’ rest in bottle and a final RS of 8.2 g/L. Deep in hue, this is quite rich and toasty, with baked yellow fruit and an evident oxidative bent taking this to a blunted finish. 88/100 (TR)

Very toasty and rich with some honey and baked apple on the nose. Bold and powerful with lovely pear and peach fruit, but manages to retain freshness despite the richness. In this very rich style it works really well. 92/100 (JG)

Graham Beck Ultra Brut 2017
Ultra Brut is how Graham Beck refers to their zero dosage wines. The 2017 blends 67% Chardonnay (50% from Robertson clone 96, and 17% from Stellenbosch) with 33% Pinot Noir from Walker Bay. This spent 5 years on lees prior to disgorge. Quite complete, this carries red apple, candle wax on a seamless, lightly padded palate, finishing with light spice and a bright snap. 91/100 (TR)

Precise and focused with lovely pear and peach fruit with a nice citrus core. Has a little savoury complexity. Everything in great balance here with precision and purity. Nice fine spicy finish. Lovely wine. 92/100 (JG)

Haute Cabrière Pierre Jourdan Brut NV
75%  Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir came from vineyards in Franschhoek, Rawsonville, Robertson and Bonnievale, finishing off with a RS of 4.2 g/L. Quite floral, with perfumed red and yellow apple filling a softer, creamy core. Pleasant and friendly for enjoying now. 88/100 (TR)

Lovely fruit here: cherries and citrus with nice brightness and purity, finishing with good acidity. Lovely fruit presence. 91/100 (JG)

Kleine Zalze Brut 2015
This 60/40 Chardonnay / Pinot Noir spent five years on lees prior to disgorgement, and finishes with a 4.5 g/L RS. Richer in the mouth with toasted brioche, red apple, and biscuit over a creamy soft lees base, finishing with a bitter lemon twist. Quite smart and solid. 90/100 (TR)

Lourensford Wine Estate Brut Blanc 2017
Chardonnay based, with 13% Pinot Noir, this base wine was split between tank and 16% French barrel, with full MLF and 5 months on lees prior to bottling. Once bottled, this spent 55 months on lees, and disgorged leaving 6.8 g/L RS. This is quite yeasty, with a little sharp green apple and searing lemon acidity, finishing with a bitter twist. 87/100 (TR)

This is taut and lively with pear and peach fruit as well as some citrus. Has nice fruit but also some pithy bitterness on the finish. 88/100 (JG)

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2020
This Brut blends 51% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir, and 2% Pinot Meunier, fermented in stainless, with a portion of Chardonnay seeing time in French barrels (no MLF throughout). Once in bottle this spends 20 months sur lattes prior to disgorge, leaving RS of 5.4 g/L. Bright and youthful, with red apple, shining lemon, and bright, lifted acidity. Lovely vibrancy here. 92/100 (TR)

Bright and linear with lovely citrus and pear fruit. There’s lovely acidity here and some nice fruit purity. Very stylish. 92/100 (JG)

Spier Wines Brut 2020
68% Chardonnay and 38% Pinot Noir is primarily fermented in stainless, with 10% in 400L French barrels. This spent 23 months on lees in bottle, leaving 6.6 g/L RS. Strawberry and white cherry wrap around a sweet red apple core, trailing off quickly to a snappy finish. 88/100 (TR)

Toasty and rich with lovely tart acidity supporting sweet citrus and pear fruit. Juicy and lively with a touch of sweetness on the finish. 88/100 (JG)


Overall a very strong category, with many serious wines. There is a noted emphasis on the sourcing of Chardonnay from Robertson limestone and cool climate Elgin.

Black Elephant Vintners Blanc de Blancs 2013
From a single Franschhoek Vineyard, the base wine was barrel fermented for 1 year prior to 5 years sur lattes prior to disgorge (3.4 g/L RS). This then spent 2 years on the cork before release. The time in barrel and on lees has left this quite oxidative and somewhat tired, with sweeter red apple, ample toast, and soft lemon. 86/100 (TR)

Toasty and intense on the nose with sweet citrus. The palate is focused with taut citrus fruit and a bit of structure. Lovely acid line with some savoury hints. Serious stuff with real complexity. 93/100 (JG)

Black Elephant Vintners Blanc de Blancs Zero Dosage 2011
Elgin Chardonnay spent 10 years on lees (!) prior to zero disgorge. This remains sharp as an arrow, with driving lemon, green apple and vibrant acidity through a lingering saline finish. Impressive. 92/100 (TR)

Toast and spice on the nose which has quite a savoury edge. The palate shows complex citrus fruit with some subtle nuttiness and a bit of spice. Nice acid line here. Sophisticated with a savoury twist on the finish. 92/100 (JG)

Cederberg Cellar Blanc de Blancs 2018
This Chardonnay was picked at altitude, and spent 45 months sur lattes, disgorged leaving 3.3 g/L RS. Red and yellow apple, white cherry coat a sweet, ripe core, all lit with a buzzy stony base, and carried with a streaming acid line. 90/100 (TR)

Fresh, vibrant and fruit-driven with nice citrus fruit and keen acidity. Pure and a bit pithy. Fresh and primary, and fruit driven. 90/100 (JG)

Colmant Absolu Dosage Zero NV
This Chardonnay (from Franschhoek, Robertson, and Elgin) is based on the 2014 vintage, with 15% perpetual reserve wines from the previous 8 vintages. Primarily fermented in stainless, 15% went to 225L French barrels. This spent 7 years on lees, plus an extra year on cork prior to release. Showing lovely evolution here, with toast, dough, green apple, frizzed lemon on a texturally chalky base, stretching out along a lengthy finish. 91/100 (TR)

2014 base vintage. Full yellow colour. Lots of toast here with a chalky edge to the citrus and pear fruit. Taut and nicely complex with a nice savoury side. Some bitter hints on the finish. 91/100 (JG)

Genevieve Blanc de Blancs 2017
This Chardonnay comes from 22 year old vines in Botrivier, with 4 years on lees prior to disgorge, leaving 4.7 g/L RS. There’s an alluring developed note here, with white cherry, lemon and a textured chalkiness casing a pure and ripe green apple core. The finish lingers long with more buzzy chalkiness. Very smart, reflecting the sharp vintage. 12500 bottles. 92/100 (TR)

Nice depth of flavour here. Has some subtle toast and spice with a touch of warmth to the peach and citrus fruit. Fine spices here with richness allied to freshness. Complex and mouthfilling with some refinement. 92/100 (JG)

Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2017
This Chardonnay comes solely off their Robertson estate, with  50% barrel fermented in old Champenoise barrels, and 50% in stainless. *In the 2022 vintage they’re using some amphora and foudre in the base wine mix.  The 2017 rested 5 years sur lattes, with an RS around 5.8 g/L. They aim to have 3 disgorgements per vintage, with the dosage lessening per each release. Another great 2017 here, with some flinty oxidative notes working through red and green apple, pure lemon, and a noticeably buzzy underlay. Quite finessed drinking now, and with time ahead. 93/100 (TR)

Complex and intense with lovely precision. Good acidity supports layered citrus fruit, with fine toasty hints. Elegant, balanced and poised with nice freshness. Lovely wine, with some fine spicy notes on the finish. 94/100 (JG)

Haute Cabriere Pierre Jourdan Blanc de Blancs 2017
This single vineyard Chardonnay was fermented and aged in smaller format oak for 8 months (new to 5th year) before an additional 5 years on lees, with RS 3.3 g/L. Very perfumed, with apple blossom, ripe pear flooding a creamy, sweet-fruited mid. Pretty. 88/100 (TR)

Very lively citrus fruit on the nose: expansive and bright. The palate is vivid and focused with taut, lean citrus fruit and nice spiciness. Very focused. 91/100 (JG)

Krone Kaaimansgat Blanc de Blancs 2018
From Chardonnay at 800m altitude, this underwent a native ferment in foudre before spending 36 months sur lattes, finished off with an RS of 4 g/L. There are minor oxidative notes creeping into this textural, lower pressure wine, with a palate filled with biscuit, citrus, and green and yellow apple on a creamy palate. Noticeable presence and length. 91/100 (TR)

Very old block of Chardonnay in Elandskloof. Natural fermentation in foudre. Aromatic, toasty and quite fresh with fine citrus and marzipan notes. Lovely texture here with purity and great balance. Such a stylish, elegant wine. 94/100 (JG)

Krone Kaaimansgat Blanc de Blancs 2016
This vintage was fermented in brand new stockinger barrels, with the new wood still giving a definite bitter astringent edge to the palate, and finish. The core itself is quite fresh, led by green apple and lemons and toast. 89/100 (TR)

Laborie Blanc de Blancs 2018
Simple and direct, with a sweeter red apple core, lemon, and anise to a shorter, pasty finish. 86/100 (TR)

This is complex and lively with some toast and pith. Structured and with a savoury twist. Nice complexity and palate weight here, with bold flavour. 90/100 (JG)

Moreson Winery Miss Molly Blanc de Blancs 2015
A friendly, crowd-pleasing and creamy fizz with baked red apple, almond, and meringue to a snappy finish. Well-made. 88/100 (TR)

Nicely fresh here with a citrus drive. Has fine spicy notes with nice toasty elements on the palate, and a bit of spice. Lemons, pears and some white peach. Good concentration. 92/100 (JG)

Noble Hill Brut Nature Blanc de Blancs 2018
From Simonsberg Paarl fruit, this is a fresh, crisp, racy, stony sparkler, with a buzzy underlay and a lingering saline finish. Impressive. 92/100 (TR)

Delicate toast and citrus on the nose with a touch of almond. Lovely toast and spice on the palate with keen lemony fruit. Finishes tight and pithy. Lots to like here. 91/100 (JG)

Paul René Chardonnay Brut 2018
This Robertson Chardonnay was fermented in stainless before heading to bottle and 44 months on lees (7.7 g/L RS). Very chalky, with a lemon-led, streamlined frame streaking across the finely textured base. Very focused and pure. 93/100 (TR)

This has attractive toastiness as well as crystalline citrus fruit and some peach and apricot richness around the fringes. Refined and focused with nice brightness. Has a lovely lemony finish. Stylish. 91/100 (JG)

Pongracz Blanc de Blancs NN
With 36 months on the lees, and an end of 5.4 g/L RS, this is showing oxidation, with big toast, red apple and rock salt cut with a searing acidity, finishing with more toasted notes. Big ragged, and welcoming bigger food pairings. 88/100 (TR)

Toasty, rich and intense with appealing pear and apple fruit, with a fresh acid line on the finish. A bold, rich style, but showing some restraint. Lots of weight. 90/100 (JG)

Silverthorn Wines The Green Man 2019
Producers like John, who focus on sparkling wines (along with terroir and old vines) jump right out of the lineup. This Chardonnay is from older vines on shale and limestone, with 15% fermented in wood (full MLF) where it remained for near a year prior to 27 months on lees in bottle. Very pure, with grippy chalk, lemon, verbena and fine salinity woven throughout the concentrated core. The stony chalkiness lingers on the finish. Serious stuff. 93/100 (TR)  

The focus here is on terroir and old vines, and this comes from three older Chardonnay vineyards on shale and limestone. Complex, full flavoured but nicely restrained with keen acidity under the pear and citrus fruit, with a touch of peachy richness. Fine and complex with some texture to the bright fruit. Superb balance here. 94/100 (JG)

Vergelegen MMV Brut Blanc de Blancs 2017
This BdB comes off fruit in Korhaan and Slanghoek vineyards, fermented in 228L barrels, and with 45 months on lees, DG November 2021, leaving 6.7 g/L RS. My taste was bitter and oxidative, with smoked meats, tart lemon, on a shorter palate. 83/100 (TR)

Smoky and minty, with some savoury salami notes. Nice citrus fruit, though. 82/100 (JG)

Villiera Brut Natural 2017
This wine used no sulphur, and unfortunately, it showed in the final wine. This estate Chardonnay was native fermented, with full MLF, and 6 months on lees prior to heading to bottle and 4 years sur lattes. It was bottled without dosage. The lack of judicious use of sulphur left this mousy and oxidative, disjointed and sour. Sad, for all the efforts they put into it. A little sulphur goes a LONG way. 79/100 (TR)

Toasty nose here, with bready notes. The palate is really mousy. Undrinkable. (JG)

L’Ormarins Blanc de Blancs 2017
From higher altitude vineyards between 680-880m, and Chardonnay sourced from Robertson and Darling, this was 10% barrel fermented (1% new wood) with no MLF before spending up to 4 years on lees prior to disgorge. Red apple, ripe cherry, lemon peel rule this doughy, toasty BdB, with lingering fine spices through the finish. Quite a posh wine, and well done. 91/100 (TR)

Colmant Blanc de Blancs NV
Their perpetual reserve makes up 20% of this BdB, based on the 2017 vintage, and off fruit from Franschhoek, Elgin and Robertson. 15% of the base wine was fermented in 225L French oak barrels, and it spent 45 months sur lattes, prior to disgorge with 4 g/L.  So many layers of complexity woven throughout this expansive BdB, with dough, toasted bread cut with a streaming line of lemon right through the, grippy, chalky finish. Really special. 93/100 (TR)


Once again, this category underwhelmed, which is a shame. There were certainly some true gems here, well-crafted, deftly-handled, ageworthy wines, betting the category name. However, there were also overdone, overwrought, overworked, and most unfortunately overpriced wines. More is not always more in wine. Power and show should not equal prestige.

Anthonij Rupert Wyne Private Cuvée 2014
This blend of 66% Chardonnay from high altitude Elandskloof and Darkling, and 34% Pinot Noir from Elandskloof uses the tête de cuvée, and spent 72 months sur lattes prior to disgorge, leaving RS at 4.3g/L. Bright, fine, light, and tight, this elegant sparkling is kissed with light lemon, rainier cherry, and red apple perfume, and gripped with a buzzy granitic hum. Very smart. 92/100 (TR)

72 months on lees. Refined, taut and with a spicy edge to the sweet cherry and pear fruit with a touch of spice. Crystalline and bright, with a taut savoury finish and good acidity. Nice length, finishing lemony and fine. 92/100 (JG)

Charles Fox Cipher 2017
This Blanc de Noir comes from Elgin fruit, and was fermented in 50% old wood. Unfortunately the handling permeates the oxidative whole, leaving baked apple, ketchup chips and a shorter finish. Old school. 85/100 (TR)

This is linear and bright with a touch of lime and cherry. Focused and nicely complex, with a primary fruit focus and nice compact fruit. Nice precision here. 93/100 (JG)

Graham Beck Cuvée Clive 2017
Always a strong showing, and the focused 2017 vintage proves no different This blends 60% Chardonnay (1 bock of 548 Robertson, and 20% Napier’s decomposed granite) with 40% Pinot Noir from Durbanville’s Table Mountain sandstone. The Chard was fermented in barrel and foudre. Once united, this spent 5 years on lees, and this bottle was disgorged May 2022, leaving 4.18 g/L RS. Very polished, with lemon verbena, light toast, oyster liqueur and a fantastic buzzy limestone underlay. Has presence and elegance. 94/100 (TR)

Complex and slightly smoky on the mineral-laced citrus nose. The palate shows texture and complexity as well as freshness. A real array of flavours here with mandarin, lemon and red cherry as well as some toastiness. Very stylish. 95/100 (JG)

Pongracz Desiderius 2015
This blend of 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir was aged 69 months sur lattes, leaving 3.5 g/L RS. Quite oxidative, with burnished red apple skin and toasted cracker. 80/100 (TR)

Toasty, biscuit nose with some pear and peach. Bold and quite toasty on the palate with nice depth to the fruit. Has some breadth, but also finishes quite fresh. Linear and expressive. 92/100 (JG)

Silverthorn Jewel Box 2017
This Chardonnay (71%) was barrel fermented and aged, while the Pinot Noir (29%) was tank fermented. After blended and bottled, this little jewel spent 53 months on the lees prior to disgorge leaving 5.9 g/L RS. Light lemon perfume, red apple, yellow apple, wraps around a lovely core of oyster liqueur, finishing with a great textural grip. Lovely presence in this structural, smart wine. 92/100 (TR)

Toasty, concentrated and intense with lovely citrus and pear fruit, some peach, and a savoury twist on the finish. Has a touch of cherry, too. Very gastronomic and with real depth. Concentrated, compact and refined with lots of complexity. 94/100 (JG)

Simonsig Wines Cuvee Royale 2017
This Chardonnay was fermented in stainless, with no MLF, and heads to bottle for a minimum of 5 years on lees. Beauty chardy focus here, with layers of toast, biscuit, lemon, green apple, anise, and verbena. Depth and polish in this sophisticated wine. 93/100 (TR)

Very refined with taut toasty citrus fruit with some pear richness. Lovely concentration and freshness with bright citrus to the fore. Nicely spicy. This has a lot of flavour, but also sophistication. 94/100 (JG)

Steenberg Vineyards Lady R 2017
A blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, the latter barrel fermented in older 600L French oak. This spent 52 months sur lattes, disgorged in December 2021, leaving 4.3 g/L RS.

Ripe pear, bitter edged, with a cherry cordial core before trailing off into a spiced and somewhat astringent finish. 89/100 (TR)

Fine toast and lime on the nose. Very pure and fresh on the palate. This has lovely pithy hints with a sense of finesse. There’s some cherry and pear here as well as citrus. Lovely refinement here, with a Pinot Noir drive. 94/100 (JG)

Villiera MONRO Brut 2015
One of the few wines with Pinot Meunier included, this blends 65% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Meunier, with half the Chardonnay fermented in used oak barrels prior to the blend. This spent 5.5 years on lees in bottle, disgorged leaving 5.9 g/L RS. Bitter cherry, rhubarb, lemon balm lead the dry palate, finishing with an acerbic orange note. 88/100 (TR)

Toasty and lively with a strongly savoury edge to the citrus, pear and apple fruit. Has some biscuits notes on the finish. 89/100 (JG)

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Treve Ring

Treve Ring is a wine writer and editor, judge and speaker, and perpetual traveller. [She is also Correspondent Anorak.]