Andy Mossack reviews South African Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2014, a sparkling wine that just might give Champagne a run for its money?
Here’s the thing about sparkling wine. It can turn out to be fool’s gold. A satisfyingly heavy bottle dressed in an elegant gold sleeve and a label adorned with a fancy script may look the part until you try it and then it’s disappointingly limp with bubbles fizzling out like a dud firecracker.
Simonsig is a South African wine producer with an impressive pedigree. Based in the Western Cape’s Stellenbosch wine country and owned by the Malan family for generations, Simonsig pioneered the Méthode Champenoise in South Africa in 1971, the traditional method of production used in the Champagne region of France. At that time, it was the only winemaker in the country to ferment sparkling wine in the bottle. Johan Malan even made a study pilgrimage to Champagne back in 1990 to see if he could replicate the quality of the Chardonnay grapes in Stellenbosch soil.
All this effort has not gone unrewarded with Simonsig’s much-coveted Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2014 winning its fair share of serious awards including a Veritas Gold, 93 points from Tim Atkin Master Wines and 4.5 John Platter Stars. This is an exceptional sparkling wine that has enjoyed at least a four-year maturation in the bottle following an initial fermentation in the tank resulting in a dry but delightfully crisp wine with refreshingly fruity notes of peach and lemon.
After such a careful birth, there’s no time like the present and this 2014 golden-hued vintage is ripe and ready to be opened and enjoyed best with delicate foods such as seafood including shellfish and oysters and light vegetables.
Simonsig’s Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2014 is a perfect example of just how far South African wines have come in attaining global recognition as a serious wine producer. As Johan Malan commented, “The South African market is experiencing a run on premier, premium-priced Cap Classiques as consumers are beginning to realise that our wines can compete with the finest in the world in terms of quality, Consumers locally and internationally are sitting-up and noticing the new levels of quality and class in the Cap Classique sector.”
It is rare to find a sparkling wine held in such high esteem outside of Champagne but the painstaking work the Malan family have put into replicating that quality in their Chardonnay vines seems to have paid off handsomely.
No dud firecracker here.
Other notable Simonsig sparkling mentions are Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2018 and Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rose 2018.
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Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2014 and the other sparkling wines mentioned above are available outside of South Africa and in Europe can be ordered from Cape Classique UK (Case of 6 bottles of Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2014 £144 plus shipping).