The Simonsig was great with chicken casserole and sauteed scallops.
Three South African sparkling wines
Cost: $16-29
I have always heard that good things come in threes, and have never had reason to doubt that. So when I recently came across three outstanding wines from South Africa I knew I had to share them with you.
During the past couple of years I have attended several wine tastings featuring South African wines, and I have always been impressed with them. I have especially enjoyed the sparkling wines produced in that country.
So this week I would like to introduce you to three sparkling wines from South Africa: Graham Beck Brut NV ($16-18), Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Méthode Cap Classique 2016 ($24-26) and Boschendal Brut Rosé NV ($27-29).
I am a big fan of sparkling wine. While I don’t think you need an excuse to drink a sparkler, drinking some bubbly at home is the perfect thing to do to keep our spirits up during this difficult time when we are supposed to stay socially isolated to prevent the spread of the corona virus.
I picked these wines up a few weeks ago just before I spent a week at Edisto Beach with my friends the Magnificent 8. It might be the last time any of us has social interaction with anyone outside our families, so I’m glad we were able to try these great wines with all the fresh seafood we ate there.
Dinner is a time for wine and stories.

Dinner is almost over but there is always time for stories and jokes.

Graham Beck Brut is the least expensive of the three, but it has an impressive pedigree: it was served at both Nelson Madela’s inauguration and Barack Obama’s presidential victory. And now it has been served at a Magnificent 8 gathering. When you taste it you know why it is so popular.
A pale yellow in the glass, it has pleasant lime and yeast aromas and a creamy, rich complexity on the palate. The beautiful fine mousse adds to the freshness and finesse of the wine. This sparkler cleanses the palate and stimulates the taste buds, so it is a perfect aperitif or a companion to a first course in a dinner.
The wine is 51 percent chardonnay and 49 percent pinot noir, a multi-regional, multi-clonal selection of carefully chosen, hand-picked parcels from across the Western Cape including estate vines. The two varietals are fermented separately, blended and left for 15-18 months with yeast contact before disgorgement.
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Méthode Cap Classique was South Africa’s first traditional method sparkling wine, produced in 1971. A light straw color in the glass, it opens with citrus aromas and Granny Smith apple and white stone fruit flavors followed by hints of yellow apple, berries and citrus. It is a complex wine with crisp acidity lending balance and leading to an elegant finish.
Méthode Cap Classique (or MCC) is South Africa’s own signature sparkling wine, made in the traditional Champagne method with a second fermentation in the bottle. The term Méthode Cap Classique originated in 1992 with the establishment of the Cap Classique Producers Association, to denote the category of premium, traditional method sparkling wine from South Africa.  MCCs often use traditional Champagne varieties, as well as more signature South African grapes like Chenin Blanc.  
The blend is 53 percent pinot noir 46 percent chardonnay and one percent pinot meunier. Whole bunches are gently pressed in pneumatic presses to collect the purest juices. After two days of settling the juice is fermented in cooled stainless steel tanks with specially selected yeast strains. To add complexity to the wine a portion of the chardonnay is fermented in older French oak barrels.
Boschendal Brut Rosé is mostly pinot noir, with a touch of pinotage and chardonnay from the estate’s top vineyards. It displays notes of red berries and cherries, with complexity and depth. The wine is pleasing to the eye as well as to the palate. It spends 12 months on the lees, giving it extra complexity and depth.
All three of these wines are great values for their price.
All of these sparklers from South Africa were great beach wines.

Winery: All of these wineries have interesting histories.
Frans Malan, the founder of Simonsig, was the first producer of Méthode Champenoise in South Africa, when he pioneered sparkling wine in 1971. He also is honored for co-founding the thriving Stellenbosch Wine Route, a first in its time. Today, his legacy lives on through his sons, Francois and Johan, and grandchildren Francois-Jacques, Christelle and Michael, the second and third Malan generations at Simonsig Wine Estate.
Simonsig also produces several other sparkling wines; the Garland, a single-vineyard cabernet sauvignon; pinotage; syrah; a couple of red blends; a late harvest botrytis wine; chenin blanc; chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, gewurtztraminer, a roussanne/marsanne blend and another white Rhone blend.
Some of the Magnificent 8 enjoying dinner.

The late Graham Beck founded his winery in 1983 when he purchased a farm outside the Western Cape Town of Robertson. He was successful in several other businesses before turning to wine. To establish a world-class winery he built a state-of-the-art cellar and tasting facility.
Graham and Rhona’s son Antony Beck leads the winery now. It produces an array of sparkling wines, while a selection of Beck family-owned ultra-premium still wines, Angela Estate and Capensis join the MCCs as part of the Beck Family Wines repertoire.
Angela Estate, which Antony named after his wife, is a boutique family winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with an international pedigree specializing in estate-grown pinot noir.  Capensis, meaning “from the Cape,” is a joint venture between Antony and his long time friend Barbara Banke of Jackson Family Wines.
Boschendal, founded in 1685, is one of the oldest wine estates in South Africa.
The estate’s first owner, Jean le Long, was one of the party of 200 French Huguenot  refugees who were fleeing religious persecution in Europe. 
It changed hands many times over the centuries, and in 2012 the estate was sold to a consortium of South African investors who began an intensive rejuvenation and agricultural program.
The winery is noted particularly for its high quality white wines.
The name Bos-en-dal, or wood and valley, reveals its essence: a breathtakingly beautiful valley basin. Besides the winery, the estate includes a farm, restaurant and numerous guest cottages.
The Graham Beck was perfect for the stir fry shrimp.

Goes with: We had all three of these wines during dinners with our friends at Edisto Beach. Our group, the Magnificent 8, rents a house on the beach every year in early March or late April. We spend the week talking, reading, walking on the beach, working jigsaw puzzles, eating fresh seafood and drinking good wine. We usually play some golf, but I missed the only day the golfers ventured out this year.
This is a group of friends who are dear to me. I was mourning the deaths of my wife and my father many years ago when Sandy asked me to join her and Steve and two other couples on a trip to Napa Valley. I didn’t want to go but she badgered me until I gave in. Then she asked if I would plan the trip. (She knew I loved to plan trips.)
The trip was a blast. We decided the group needed a name and we settled on the Magnificent 7. And we decided to keep the fun going. A few years later when I married Teri they all accepted her and we became the Magnificent 8. We get together at least two or three times a year, at the beach, in a Maggie Valley home owned by John and Edith, and sometimes at their pond house. We’ve even met at John and Dorothy’s house just to get together and share life experiences. Six of us went to the Willamette Valley in Oregon for another wine trip.
Life is full of ups and downs, and you can’t predict what’s coming next. But it’s friends like this that help you get through the tough times and make the good times even better. That’s one of the really difficult things about the corona virus quarantine. You don’t get to spend as much time with friends as you would like.
All of these wines are versatile and can pair with a wide variety of food. We had the Graham Beck with an appetizer of steamed shrimp and an entree of stir-fry shrimp. It was perfect with both dishes. The stir fry had shrimp, celery, carrots, bell pepper, green onions, snow peas, water chestnuts and peanuts. We cook it all in a wok in a sauce made of ginger, chicken broth, soy sauce, sherry, crushed red pepper, cayenne, a little sugar and a little corn starch to thicken the sauce. We served it over brown rice.
We served the Simonsig the night we got lazy and had delicious casseroles from King’s Market at Edisto. We also had some scallops we sauteed in butter. (The other nights we cooked fresh seafood from Edisto Seafood. There is nothing like fresh seafood.)
One casserole was chicken, one was tomato and one was corn. They were heavenly, and the sparkling wine brought out all the complex flavors of these tasty dishes.
The Boschendal was a nice match for the citrus scallops.
The Boshchendal rosé was perfect the night we had sauteed scallops in a citrus sauce with red bell pepper served over angel hair pasta. That might have been my favorite pairing because the rich flavors of the hearty rosé were a nice match for the citrus flavors and creamy scallops.
You could serve these sparklers with egg dishes at brunch, before dinner with rich appetizers, or with seafood at dinner or even paired with desserts. It would be difficult to find a food that wouldn’t pair with one of these, and that is the beauty of a good sparkling wine. It tastes good with everything, or even just by itself.
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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