The season to be bubbly
Watch out for the trademark logo Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) on sparkling wines made in SA using traditional champenoise methods, writes Graham Howe
CAPE producers use specific white and red grape varieties — as well as newer varieties like Pinotage and Chenin Blanc — only the first, finest pressing called the cuvée. The base wine undergoes secondary fermentation on yeast lees in the bottle using French techniques such as remuage, riddling and dosage (adding sugar from extra-dry brut to off-dry).
The annual “Magic of Bubbles” Festival of Cap Classique and Champagne took place in the Franschhoek Wine Valley last week. I tasted my way through the finest new releases of Cap Classique to celebrate Christmas and the New Year:
Allée Bleue Brut Rosé 2010. The second vintage of this uniquely South African blend of Pinotage, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir was aged ten months on lees. This seductive little bubbly has a romantic salmon pink hue and alluring flavours of strawberries, rose petals and candy floss with yeasty notes and a crisp, clean finish.
Boschendal Grande Cuvée Brut 2007. Rated 4,5 out of five stars, Boschendal Grande Cuvée Brut 2007 won the vintage category of Wine’s Amorim Cap Classique Challenge 2011. Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this vintage MCC is crisp, clean and fresh with lovely apple fruit, subtle almond biscotti and bready flavours.
Domaine Grier Brut NV. This bottle-fermented sparkling wine is part of an exciting wine range made in the south of France from vineyards owned by the Grier family of Villiera. Made with great finesse from classic and Catalan varieties, it spent sixteen months on the lees, to develop delicate raspberry, yeasty brioche notes.
Graham Beck Brut Zero 2005. The newest release from cellarmaster Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira dispenses with the customary practice of dosage to create the driest MCC around. A blend of whole-bunched pressed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the tête de cuvée was fermented in the bottle on the lees for 72 months. The result is a purist’s delight — bonedry and ultra crisp with rich minerality and purity of fruit.
Groote Post The Old Man’s Sparkle Brut Rosé NV. This salmon-pink off-dry MCC is an intriguing blend of Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A handcrafted sparkler from Darling, it was hand-riddled in racks and aged for two years, adding great intensity to a wine with luscious crushed strawberry, plum and shortbread flavours.
JC Le Roux Brut NV. The new MCC from this specialist house of sparkling wine is a lively blend of mostly Pinot Noir with a splash of Chardonnay with rich yeasty tones and bright berry fruit. Cellar master Elunda Basson explains “This new release was crafted for people who enjoy the elegance of MCC with a youthful character”.
La Motte MCC Brut 2008. The second vintage of MCC from this showpiece gateway to the Franschhoek Valley won a 2011 SA Terroir Wine Award for its estate blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. After maturing for 29 months on the lees, it entices with a fine mousse, yeasty apple and cinnamon aromas and alluring strawberry character.
Nitida The Matriarch 2010. Nitida in Durbanville has released a maiden MCC Duo - a white and red Matriarch as a tribute to the doyenne of the Veller family farm. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the white Matriarch is made in a fruit- driven style - while the red Matriarch teems with mulberry, papaya, dark chocolate and ripe plums.
Pongrácz NV. Winner of Best Non-vintage at Wine’s Amorim Cap Classique Challenge 2011, Pongrácz and Pongrácz Rosé are now available in a 375ml bottle. An ever-popular blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a crisp green apple character, fine bead and toasty highlights - or try Pongrácz Rosé, all blackberry fruit.
Rhebokskloof MCC 2007. Made from Chardonnay grapes grown on mature twenty year-old vines on the slopes of Paarl Rock, this elegant sparkling wine spent two years on lees — developing a complex array of citrus flavours with yeasty biscuit notes.
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel 2009. South Africa’s very first Méthode Cap Classique celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2011. A medley of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier with a creamy mousse and layers of flavour, Kaapse Vonkel is a Cape icon. Also try their Cuvée Royale 2005, winner of the Cap Classique Challenge 2011.
Villiera Tradition Brut NV and Brut Rosé NV. Watch out for the new-look label on the Grier’s prize-winning collection of Cap Classique. Blended from a cuvee of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinotage, both wines were matured 18 months on the lees to create a signature style of fresh varietal fruit, crisp acidity and yeasty biscuit tones.
Weltevrede Entheos Brut NV. One of a quartet in the Philip Jonker Brut Cap Classique Collection is named after the winemaker’s great “enthusiasm” for life - meaning in Greek the full intensity of emotion of the moment of inspiration. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it is a creamy mouthful of brioche and citrus fruit.