“Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy”
It’s interesting: Mister Johnson says that the one who “ASPIRES” to be a hero must drink brandy! So where does that leave the “ESTABLISHED” hero? Champagne drinker perhaps?
Returning from France, one of the COLDEST wine producing areas in the world, in December 1999, I secured the position of winemaker in one of the HOTTEST wine producing areas in the world – Upington.
Young, and full of ideas, I decided to make an experimental wine for Upington! Their first ever Cap Classique! I identified a block of grapes; we harvested early with a low sugar and after fermentation were left with a normal, light in style, dry white wine.
We then added a slight bit of sugar and yeast to the finished wine. While keeping the mixture in suspension, we bottled the murky wine into proper Cap Classique bottles and capped it with a crown cork (the same as the famous old style metal Coke bottle closures). We stacked it into our underground cellar – 3000 bottles altogether. Needless to say, everything in Upington gets extremely hot! The underground cellar could easily reach 50 degrees Celsius. We therefore installed a big air conditioner to keep the fermenting bottles at a constant cool temperature.
The yeast feeds off the small amount of sugar in the wine and produces a little bit of CO2 (Carbon dioxide). The more sugar you add the more CO2 is produced. You therefore need to add just the right amount of sugar to produce the right amount of sparkle! The CO2 now has nowhere to go and therefore dissolves into the wine. This is a slow process and can take up to 6 months (with years of aging to follow in a la France).
3 months into bottle fermentation, the Upington heat pulled a stunt on my precious babies. While attending to business in Cape Town for 2 weeks (my now wife, then girlfriend was in desperate need of attention!), the air-conditioner guarding my wine, tripped. The temperature quickly shot up into the fifties. Almost 2000 bottles exploded one by one. One can just imagine! WORLD WAR 2! I, on my return, discovered a few bottles buried under a heap of glass! After a few weeks of cooling, the area was safe to enter. Needless to say, the Cap Classique turned out to be a limited release, first ever fermented and aged in extreme HEAT conditions. – The HOTTEST Cap Classique ever made! (…one of the top Hottest things of 1999!?…. – now there’s a story for Elle Magazine!)