South Africa – sparkling wines

This article is a preparation for WSET Diploma Unit 5. It’s about sparkling wines from South Africa.

Location, climate & soils

The majority of the vineyards are located in the Coastal Region. The grapes can come from over 20 different geographical areas, so the terroir is very diverse. It’s a mix of cool and warm, high and low altitude, coastal influences, etc. For example, there are a few producers located in Robertson, which is a bit warmer, but does have limestone soils, which is ideal for sparkling wine.

Grape varieties

There are no limitations on grape varieties, but the classic champagne varieties are most popular. Chenin blanc and pinotage are also often used.


A lot of sparkling wine is made by carbonation, not so much is made by tank method. Additionally, South Africa is the only country outside the Old World that has created a name for its traditional method: methode cap classique. The minimum time on lees was raised to 12 months in 2013.

One of the problems for MCC is the large number of cheap sparklers being made in South Africa which are tank fermented and then injected with carbon dioxide: there are around 12.5 million litres of these sparklers produced each year. And there are also non-MCC bottle-fermented wines that spend just 3 months on lees which can also confuse consumers, because they can still claim to be bottle fermented. – Wine Anorak

Styles and production

There’s white and rosé made, usually in a brut and some no dosage. There’s no legislation, it’s up to the producer.

The total production in 2011 was 15.4 million bottles of sparkling wine, roughly a third was made by the MCC. Well-known producers are Graham Beck, Le Lude and Simonsig.

You like? Check out other WSET Diploma study notes.

Sources & suggested reading:

Wine Anorak – Epic tasting of South African Methode Cap Classique wines
Tom Stevenson & Essi Avalan – The World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines

Ik ben Nadien de Visser, wijnliefhebber pur sang. Ooit begonnen door een studie in Frankrijk en bij thuiskomst Le Club des Vins opgericht. Dé plek om je wijnkennis bij te spijkeren.

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