South Africa – Methode Cap Classique Sparkling Wines

14th August 2017

Klein_Constantia

Seeing is believing! There I was, in South Africa, to see the vineyards and magnificent mountain ranges including the symbolic Table Mountain. I touched weathered sandstones and shale’s soils and felt the breeze from the False Bay.

South Africa has a diverse environment that enables producing a variety of wines. My overall impression is that South African wine is very pure and honest. They precisely express their own terroir and each producer’s philosophy. I was very impressed with their dedicated, pure passion towards winemaking and friendship amongst the local producers. They help each other and share their information about viticulture and winemaking. They have bonded to improve the quality and recognition of South African wine.

Many producers practice sustainable viticulture and minimal human intervention to protect the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Methode Cap Classique (MCC) is the name used to refer to South African sparkling wines made by the traditional method. The term was adopted in 1992 in response to the ban on the use of the words ‘Champagne’ and ‘Champenoise’ for anything other than the bottle-fermented wine from the Champagne region in France. MCC are considered a premium category in South Africa and the term “Methode Cap Classique” will always be written on the label to represent their classification.

It is quite reasonable to understand that the sales of MCC have been increasing not only in abroad but also in a domestic consumption in South Africa with the Mediterranean climate. The wine section at the local supermarket was dominated by their own MCC and sparkling wine. They usually sell only local wines because of the price value without tax and duty matters.

The Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA), established by producers who share a passion for bottle fermented sparkling wine is constantly striving to improve the quality standards of all the members’ wines.

Vinification of MCC follow the same strict procedures as those for Champagne, with the exception being that base wines are required to spend a minimum of 9 months on their lees. However, it is going to change to 12 months in two years.

It was a very good to start our wine journey with Cathy Van Zyl MW and Kenichi Ohashi MW from the historical estate, Klein Constantia. Their specialty, Vin d’Constance is a well-known sweet wine which does not only have high quality but also a legendary reputation. You may have heard about or seen the name of Vin d’Constance in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” by Charles Dickens or “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austin even if you are not keen on sweet wine. This property is situated in the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg with views across the valley to False Bay looking towards Hermanus.

Today, Klein Constantia specialises in Sauvignon Blanc in order to make the most out of their cool climate site and started to produce premium MCC made from 100% Chardonnay in 2000. The grapes come from a south-south-west facing plot in their 146 ha own wine estate and the annual production of MCC brut is only 8,000 bottles.

Very attractive gold colour with consistent beautiful fine bubble. The complex aromas -ripe lemon, yellow grape fruit, crisp apple along with toast, bread and roasted nut are blended well together. The use of combination, stainless steel tanks and oak, to make their base wine and age in bottle for 29 months offer great blending components and provides a sense of complexity due to the integration of flavours. Supple fruit flavours satisfy our mid palate, and taut and the juicy acidity provides a long finish. This 100% Chardonnay expresses their terroir, a cool site in Constantia. It is a great MCC with crisp acidity and rich fruit intensity.

The Chenin Producers Association hosted the last dinner on the day before we left. Chenin Blan is South African signature variety, which is the most planted variety there, officially since 1974. Let me say this before describing the wonderful MCC made by 100% Chenin. Drink Chenin! I will not accept any unfriendly comments by those who have not drunk the Chenin made by the dedicated producers. Drink Good Chenin! And then decide whether you like it or not.

The dinner started with the toast of the bubble- the Sparkehorse Chenin Blanc MCC 2014 by Ken Forrester Wines. Ken Forrester Wines has a superb reputation for Chenin Blanc and Ken, Mr Chenin, is the father of modern Chenin in South Africa. The Sparklehorse is the part of their Cellar Exclusive range and the first vintage is 2012. The grapes come from 40 years old vines in their cool vineyard site and are picked at the early morning with the Brix at approximately 17.5.

The very fresh aromas of citrus along with yeasty and bready aromas, which are quite dominated from the long lees contact for 18 months, gives depth and complexity to the wine. This wine has a mouthwatering juicy acidity supporting the structure and providing a dry long finish, despite not showing any bitter elements. It proves that the grapes are picked at the very best time, and their dedicated viticulture and wine making. This crisp and dry wine is perfect for seafood dishes as well as aperitif.

MCC is a premium sparkling wine reflecting South African climate, soils, terroirs and the passion of the producers there. It is not a replica of Champagne. It is Methode Cap Classique itself.

Written by Atsuko Furuya

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