Around South Africa in 80 wines part 1: Avondale Armilla blancs de blancs

New to South Africa, I’m exploring the diversity of wine in the country at one bottle a week. English by birth, I’ve spent the last 20 years in Australia writing about food and drink for daily newspapers, glossy magazines and my blog, founded in 2005.

I now live in Johannesburg and am educating myself on all the amazing, new, interesting and avant-garde wines available in this country.

Around South Africa in 80 wines

Starting this series “Around South Africa in 80 wines” and the new year require something special. Most people turn to Champagne because they know no better. And that’s fair enough. But I’m interested in drinking local, specifically Méthode Cap Classique, rather than something from our French luxury goods overlords.

You know, I’m jaded by the cheaper mass market champagnes. Cheap Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot for me have all the appeal of a second-hand pair of sunglasses. And they are more about luxury brand marketing than a great drinking experience.

All Champagnes use Méthode Traditionnelle. After an initial fermentation, the liquor is bottled with a dose of yeast and sugar before being disgorged and corked for sale. No winemaker outside of the Champagne region can use the C-word to describe their sparking wine. And quite rightly the Champagne wine makers defend the intellectual property of their region vigorously.

Wine: Avondale Armilla blancs de blancs
Year: 2009
Region: Paarl
Grape: Chardonnay.
Biodynamic. Certified organic.
Price: About R265. Available online.

Méthode Cap Classique

Hence back in 1992 a group of foresighted South Africans, who use exactly the same method of winemaking as the Champenoise, created their own designation, Méthode Cap Classique (or MCC).

Few countries made such a smart move. Like I said, MCC uses exactly the same techniques as in Champagne, introduced by the French Huguenots who settled in the Western Cape in the 17th century.

While champagne holds social cachet, pretty much all MCC wines are terrific value costing from about R100 ($AUD10) upwards. They are better drinking value than champagne though I guess MCC is for the nerdy wine drinker as opposed to the socialite or Jay-Z.

Come New years day I awakened my palette to the new year popping the 2009 Avondale Armilla blancs de blancs from Paarl.

Tasting Avondale blancs de blancs

Immediately the Avondale exhibits the crispness of granny smith apple, toasted brioche and a citrus zest. It’s refreshing and a wake-up call to the new year.

I like the ethos of Avondale too: Their vineyards are organic and biodynamic with a posse of Pekin ducks used to keep the vineyards clear of snails; Beneficial bacteria rather than chemicals used to control mildew and various harmful worms; predatory wasps released to control mealy bugs; and the full force of local birds of prey including Spotted Eagle Owls, Rock Kestrels, Yellow-billed and Black-shouldered Kites deal with rodents.

I haven’t visited the cellar door but it is on my list. As with many of the Cape’s wineries it is an absolutely charming looking Cape Dutch style farm (where cellar door tastings cost R70).

Cheers to a new year and the next 79 wines.

Note: I endeavour to pay for all wines myself and I practice ethical blogging.

Also published on Medium.

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