The first ever Cap Classique celebrates its 50th anniversary this year! Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel was first made in 1971 by Frans Malan, and his pioneering spirit kicked off an entire wine category in SA. “I’m exceptionally proud of seeing how that small, first start of Kaapse Vonkel by my father, Frans Malan, has grown to such an extent that some 200 wineries now make Cap Classique in South Africa,” says Johan Malan, named most recently as Diners Club Winemaker of the Year 2020 for Kaapse Vonkel 2015.
Johan is excited about South Africans increasingly discovering and enjoying Cap Classiques. “It is a lifestyle wine and fits excellently with the modern wine drinker. It is fresh, fruity, lively, refreshing, elegant, stylish and puts you in a good mood. It is the most versatile wine there is – from breakfast to midnight!”
In that vein, Simonsig has updated the packaging for Kaapse Vonkel Satin Nectar and Satin Nectar Rosé. Featuring a shrink-wrapped sleeve, brightly decked with unmistakable icons of the Cape’s floral kingdom, Satin Nectar’s new look represents a fresh, jovial and vibrant approach that exalts the spirit of Africa Rising and its creative and fearless peoples. A special neck label highlights the 50th anniversary year.
The history of SA’s first MCC
Frans Malan made the first bottle-fermented méthode champenoise wine in South Africa, at a time when sparkling wine comprised carbonated and mainly sweet products. He was also one of the three founders of the wine route concept in South Africa.
He’d just started bottling Simonsig wines under his own label in 1968 when a visit to France piqued his interest in Champagne. Once home, he set to work and that first, locally made, bottle-fermented sparkling wine came in 1971. It was made with Chenin Blanc because these were all he had at his disposal.
As with any pioneering work, Frans’s journey was by no means easy. For example, there were no locally-made pupitres – a special rack to hold the bottles in a downward position for the riddling process. A carpenter was commissioned to make them. The result was an object that resembled a rickety spider, but it did the job.
Many other challenges were eventually overcome. Of course, wine lovers also needed some education about this new product on the South African wine landscape because Kaapse Vonkel was then very dry and, at R3 a bottle, the most expensive wine in South Africa.
Every bottle included a pamphlet with photographs to illustrate the processes involved in the wine’s making. The label applied further emphasis, stating: “Fermented in THIS bottle”.
It was Frans’s winemaking son, Johan, who in 1987 turned to using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for the first time to produce Kaapse Vonkel. A decade later, Pinot Meunier was added.
Johan initiated what would become the Cap Classique Producers Association in 1988. He was its founding chairman too. Together with other producers, they realised the new appellation – Méthode Cap Classique – that denoted the traditional method of production in South Africa.