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Pierre Jourdan Cuvee Belle Rose
With an important wine renaissance is in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.
Equal parts festive and food-friendly, sparkling wine is beloved for its lively bubbles and appealing aesthetics. Though it is often thought of as something to be reserved for celebrations, sparkling wine can be enjoyed on any occasion—and might just make the regular ones feel a bit more special. Sparkling wine is made throughout the world, but can only be called “Champagne” if it comes from the Champagne region of France. Other regions have their own specialties, like Prosecco in Italy and Cava in Spain. Sweet or dry, white or rosé (or even red!), lightly fizzy or fully sparkling, there is a style of bubbly wine to suit every palate.
The bubbles in sparkling wine are formed when the base wine undergoes a secondary fermentation, trapping carbon dioxide inside the bottle or fermentation vessel. Champagne, Cava and many other sparkling wines (particularly in the New World) are made using the “traditional method,” in which the second fermentation takes place inside the bottle. With this method, dead yeast cells remain in contact with the wine during bottle aging, giving it a creamy mouthful and toasty flavors. For Prosecco, the carbonation process occurs in a stainless steel tank to preserve the fresh fruity and floral aromas preferred for this style of wine.