bubbly1Sparkling wines are the most sensory of all the wines. They stimulate and activate all the senses. Sparkling wines exhibit  taste – in their flavors…smell – in their aromas… sight –  with their color, bubbles and mousse… touch –  with the wine’s  effervescence bursting in the imbiber’s face, nose and mouth…and sound – from the pop of the cork, to the fizzy hiss as the glass fills and bubbles burst forth. No other wine and most likely no other drink is such a symphonic sensory wonder. And the bubbles are the key notes.

It’s these tiny gas-filled orbs that set sparkling wines apart from the rest of the world’s wines and spirits. The birth of a bubble begins with the release of the cork which if not handled gently or properly can exit with a force approaching a speed of 65 kilometers per hour. But this uncorking antic is best left to victorious athletes on podiums and playing fields. For what lovers of these wines wish to lose the beauty of the bubbles to the air and the ground instead of capturing their sparkle and shine in a glass to enjoy!

The Sommelier Says:  Open with a Sigh not a Shout!
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A bottle of bubbly should be uncorked with a sigh, followed by a wisp of vapor not unlike unleashing a genie from the lamp. Next, the pour will herald the main event! First the lively liquid tumbles into the flute in a burst of bubble-filled foam called mousse that rises to the top. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, as if by magic…brigades of bubbles appear at the bottom of the glass and march in single-filed formations creating skyrocketing streaming strings of bubbles. Hypnotic and intoxicating all at once …no wonder Dom Pérignon was so enraptured!

Over 300 years after Dom Pérignon’s rapturous enlightenment, a young student of physics, Gérard Liger-Belair also became inspired by the beauty he found in the bubbles of the world’s most famous sparkling wine – his homeland’s famous sparkling wine - champagne. Infected with a rabid curiosity and armed with knowledge of stop motion and macro photography, he became an intrepid gastronaut plunging into the inner depths and workings of sparkling wines.

bubbly3In sparkling wines produced using the same methods as with champagne, Méthode Traditionelle (see box) Liger-Belair claims that the heart of these wines lies in the approximately 1 million bubbles that can be born in each glass. Pop a cork, pour a glass and here’s where the beast of science meets the beauty of the bubble. These are just a few of his amazing discoveries.

Liger-Belair also discovered how bubbles are born. Microscopic fibers in the glass, bubbly4either remnants from a kitchen towel or just an airborne particle, stick to the sides of the glass. These fibers are hollow and when the wine is poured they do not become fully saturated. Molecules of dissolved carbon dioxide fill the cavity, coalesce and form bubbles. The bubbles then are expelled one by one from the fiber’s cavity and begin their march to the surface. This finding suggests that glasses cleaned in a dishwasher and in a pristine state will in fact produce few bubbles. The glass may sparkle but not the experience.

bubbly5Imperfections in the glass have a hand in the motion and patterns of the bubbles as they rise. Makers of high end glassware are etching a tiny ring of spots inside the bottom of the glass. These flaws assist the bubbles to form and rise in a distinctive ring pattern. Liger-Belair says you can make a few scratches on your own glasses, but just a few or you will create a rapid degassing and lose the effervescence you wish to enjoy.

One of Liger-Belair most interesting achievements was to finally lie to rest an argument that has been ongoing for over 200 years. Is a coupe or a flute the best glass in which to serve a sparkling wine? Or does it even matter. According to the findings it most certainly does. Using gas chromatography, it was shown that a coupe loses CO2 at least 33% faster than does a flute. So put those coupes to good use for serving small desserts! Lift your flute and cheer –Vive la effervescence!

As for serving bubblies in a plastic cup? Aside that anyone should face being tar and feathered for just thinking about it, realize that science shows just how dumb and idea this is. The plastic is hydrophobic causing the bubbles to stick to the sides and inflate into the size of tiny balls. There goes the fizz along with the fun!

So break out those flutes and fill them with the lovely lively Cap Classiques we are blessed to have right here in South Africa. And before a roaring fire surrounded by friends toast that life’s troubles ride away on millions of bubbles and then taste the stars!

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Here in the winelands of South Africa’s Western Cape we are blessed with excellent bubblies! In the Robertson Wine Valley, owner and winemaker Philip Jonker of Weltevrede Estate is producing a line-up of captivating Méthode Cap Classiques that are Food Routes favorites!

Chardonnay is the premier noble variety for high-end French champagnes and sparkling wines worldwide. The Robertson Wine Valley is blessed with calcareous soils and a climate that together provide a perfect terroir for producing chardonnay grapes destined to become sparkling stars in the bottle. Philip Jonker is a chardonnay aficionado producing three terroir specific Chardonnay still wines along with three Méthode Cap Classiques all comprised of chardonnay to varying degrees.

bubbly7Weltevrede’s Three Mustateers of Méthode Cap Classiques – Entheos, The Ring and Lindelize are the equivalent of liquid doppelgangers to the three Musketeers of literary fame Porthos, Artemis & Athos.

Entheos with its 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir mimics Porthos, bursting upon the scene at any festive occasion with personality and enthusiastic joie d’vivre. Possessing a lively mousse and biscuity notes, it’s a bubbly certain to jump-start any gathering of bon vivants!

Lindelize, named in honor of Philip’s wife, is a bubbly blush rosé exhibiting all the fruitful essences of love…cherries, strawberries and peach blossoms on the nose with flavors of rose petals accompanied by strawberries and cream on the finish. It’s a lovely sultry sparkler that surely would have softened the hardened heart of the brooding Athos!

The Ring, a brut blanc de blancs (100% chardonnay), begins with hand-picked grapes and gentle whole bunch pressing to ensure the highest quality of juice. It’s a sparkling wine true to its terroir and was created by Philip Jonker as a symbol of eternal love and fidelity to his wife on their wedding day. Artemis would have laid down his life to partake of this special sparkler!

The Weltevrede stable of wines has a strong lineup of still wines including their renowned Oupa sy Wyn and Ouma sy Wyn dessert wines. Oupa sy Wyn is a blend of wines made Red Muscadel and Muscadel du Hambourg grapes, whose bush vines were planted in 1926. This is the only vineyard in South Africa to be declared a Conservation Worthy Property by the Board for National Monuments. Truly a wine with history and a sense of place!

Not only do Philip Jonker and his family ardently adhere to producing wines filled with character and a “sense of place”, but also believe in seeing that same devotion is applied to their community and the less fortunate. Visit their website at www.weltevrede.com to read the stories of teaching nuns in Uganda how to make “communion wine” – of preserving and producing wine from the vines on Robben Island to honor former South African president Mr. Nelson Mandela on his 94th birthday  and of establishing a community-based charitable trust funded by a portion of the profits from sales of Weltevrede’s bottled wines. At Weltevrede each bottle of bubbly has a magical and ethereal dosage of enthusiasm, love and a commitment to community. With each sip you will experience as did Dom Pérignon – how it feels to “drink the stars”!

A FOOD ROUTES FORMULA FOR INSPIRED ENTERTAINING
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The lineup of Weltevrede bubblies stand on their own, yet sparkling wine based cocktails and punches are always a delightful divergence during the winter season. And as in cooking, using the best ingredients produce the best results. Bring a bit of Christmas in July to your next kuier with the following Food Routes effervescent inspiration!

Punches made with sparkling wines are making a roaring comeback worldwide, especially during the winter holidays.  It’s a fantastic way for a host to provide an easy, quick and festive beverage for a large gathering as well as offering a beverage that is moderate in alcohol – a time saver as well as a safety feature! The recipe below is not your “run of the swill” cloyingly sweet punch, but a bright bubbly balance between alcohol and fruit. Remember as in any recipe, the best ingredients yield the best results!

Keep servings sizes small to bring guests coming back for more and engaging with each other at the bowl. It’s a great way to “break the ice” at any social occasion. Here’s a recipe that showcases the duality of nature. Make both versions and toast to vive la difference! Adapted from a recipe by David Wondrich, author of Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl

YIN OR YANG CAP CLASSIQUE PUNCH
Ingredients

Instructions
Have all your fruit prepped and alcoholic ingredients ready to go. Assemble punch when ready to serve. In a punch bowl, deposit the ingredients and a slab of ice. Don’t use ice cubes, they will melt too fast and dull your drink! Decorate with sliced fresh pineapple and orange and plenty of mint. Crushed fresh strawberries add a gala touch, plus some flavor. Yield: approximately 12 120ml servings.

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Inspired Idea: Create a floating edible floral decorative ice ring for your punch. Place whole strawberries, rose petals and mint in a bundt pan. Fill halfway with water and freeze.