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Cap Classique Pioneer Simonsig Estate Finds Sweet Spot at Amorim Cap Classique Challenge

17 September 2019  -  Simonsig Wine Estate

Simonsig Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa’s pioneering Cap Classique producer, continued its leading ways in the local wine industry this year by being the first cellar to win a Trophy for a Demi Sec wine in the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge.

This competition is the only awards event committed to honouring South Africa’s Cap Classique category of bottle-fermented sparkling wines. Simonsig was the first winery to produce Cap Classique wine in the country with its maiden Kaapse Vonkel 1971.

The Amorim Cap Classique Challenge judges wines in five categories, the Demi Sec category having been introduced for the first time last year as a result of the surge in popularity of this style of wine among local and international consumers. No winner was chosen in 2018, and this year’s first Demi Sec Trophy went to Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Satin Nectar Rosé 2017, a Demi Sec wine with an enticing shade of pink rose-petal. The wine is made from Pinot Noir (72%), Pinotage (27%) and Pinot Meunier (1%).

Despite Simonsig being a regular presence on the podium at the annual Amorim Cap Classique Challenge, cellarmaster Debbie Thompson, says that winning a trophy at this competition remains a highlight for any winery involved with making Cap Classique.

“Simonsig was named Best Producer at the very first Cap Classique Challenge held in 2002, and since then we have had the honour of winning a number of these trophies,” she says. “This accolade is more relevant than ever. The standard of Cap Classique has never been higher and as this year’s record number of 134 entries shows, the competition is tough as there is an ever-increasing number of producers making bottle-fermented sparkling wines.

“Simonsig is thus extremely proud of this award – for being the first trophy winner of the Demi Sec category as well as showing that our Cap Classique legacy is being continued through the making of top-quality wines.”

During this year’s Cap Classique Challenge Simonsig also won a Gold Medal in the highly contested Brut Category for its legendary Kaapse Vonkel 2015 vintage.

Of the Demi Sec Category in this year’s competition, the chair of the judging panel, Heidi Duminy Cape Wine Master, said: “Not too shabby indeed. We all agreed that most of these were well balanced and very respectable. This is a critical class to drive the Cap Classique category and we were very happy to find a gold-worthy wine to drive this both for quality and commercial purposes.”

Thompson says Demi Sec is an exciting category, driven by the most important part in the wine world’s wheel, namely the consumer.

“Cap Classique consumers in the contemporary, fashion-conscious wine-drinking markets are displaying a penchant for sparkling wines that are not afraid to show the full, rich fruit notes and somewhat more intense perfume than the drier brut styles,” she says. “Besides, classic French Champagnes have been and are still being made to sweeter Demi Sec styles, as the use of classic grape varieties and extended lees contact after bottle-fermentation create a semi-sweet sparkling wine that is truly delicious. A wonderful combination of fruit-complexity and life-affirming refreshment.”

The 2017 vintage was lighter in yield, but showed tremendous fruit quality. The dry warm weather produced grapes with small berries with great fruit intensity.  Cooler nights and warmer days during the ripening period resulted in grapes with excellent colour and fruit formation. The components for this MCC 2017 did not disappoint and the Simonsig team was delighted with the quality and intense fruit spectrum from the various blocks. 

 All the grapes are handpicked in bins. The whole bunches are gently pressed in pneumatic presses to collect the purest juice named cuvée. The juice is then fermented in stainless steel tanks at about 14-16°C with specially selected yeast strains to ensure optimum fruit and freshness in the wine. The wine spent 18 months in bottle undergoing its secondary fermentation, the magical process during which the bubbles are formed.

Thompson says the mark of a good Demi Sec is to ensure that the pronounced fruit-flavours of a wine with 40 grams residual sugar is complemented by the right degree of acidity to ensure freshness.  “Fortunately, the quality of grapes Simonsig has access to as well as 48 years’ experience with Cap Classique has helped us to find that Demi Sec sweet-spot. We now have two wines in this range, and they have already proved to be among our best-selling wines.”