As I write this I am enjoying a glass of 2009 Rosalind, a weighty Bordeaux blend from one of my favorite wine farms, Mooiplaas.
So speaking of all things French, this months feature is all about Champagne, well, Method Cap Classique, for us living outside Champagne, France anyway.
Honestly, the only thing I knew about MCC was that it was not Champagne for some reason……but it was, in that bubbly sort of way……. So I set about doing some research to educate myself and, hopefully, you too!
It turns out that, as with much of life, the details matter!
Other than the grapes (that are not from the ‘Champagne’ region in France and therefore can’t be labeled as “Champagne”) the process follows the same traditional method of making “Champagne”.
The first phase starts with picking the grapes, these are then pressed and fermented using the same method as regular wine production. The addition of yeast to the pressed grapes prompts fermentation. The resulting juice is then bottled with the fresh addition of yeast and sugar. This mixture is often referred to as Liqueur de Tirage. Click here for a true French pronunciation (you have to have had at least two glasses of wine before getting this one right).
The first fermentation produces the wine but the ‘detail’ is in this second fermentation, which produces the bubbles inside the sealed bottle. As this second fermentation progresses, sediment is produced, which needs to be removed requiring the bottles to be regularly rotated ever so slightly over the course of a few weeks while simultaneously tilting the bottles on their heads to gather all this sediment into the neck of the bottle. This process is called Riddling.
Degorgement is the process of removing said sediment that has accumulated in the neck of the bottle by firstly freezing the neck of the bottle which solidifies this sediment. Getting rid of this sediment sounds complicated, but in essence it involves popping the cork as you would when opening a bottle at home (but with more of a hip flex!) after this some additional wine and sugar, now referred to as Liqueur d’Expedition, is added back into the bottle, the final step in the process before the bottle is sealed for the last time (until you pop the cork at home, that is!).
There are loads of videos online which detail this degorgement process if you want a more visual explanation!
But with the education all done and dusted, I can now take you through a few South African Method Cap Classique’s (otherwise known as MCC’s) that we have sipped and enjoyed recently.
Christina MCC Brut 2012 from Van Loveren
First up, but in no particular order, is the Christina MCC Brut 2012 from Van Loveren. Part of ‘The Heritage Collection”, which is named after family matriarch, Christina van Loveren, who arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1699, this range consists of limited release, single vineyard wines, one of which is this delicate MCC Brut.
Their Tasting Notes: A well-balanced Methode Cap Classique (MCC) wine with upfront lime and citrus flavours, and soft refined bubbles. A blend of Chardonnay for its finesse and ageing ability and Pinot Noir for body and fruit detail.
My Tasting Notes: I really enjoyed this pale peach colour MCC with fine bubbles and subtle palette. For this bottle of fun you can expect to pay R149, which in my mind is a steal.
My Rating: 8/10
71% Chardonnay 29% Pinot Nior
Graham Beck MCC Brut
Next up, Graham Beck MCC Brut – My wife and her friends made quick work of a magnum on her birthday!
Their Tasting Notes: Light yeasty aromas, limey fresh fruit on the nose and rich creamy complexity on the palette with a fine mousse giving freshness and finesse.
My Tasting Notes: Pale in colour, this every day crowd pleaser delivers every time. Stock it in your pantry! Cost is around R145 a bottle. Also loved the look of the bottle and the new sophisticated looking label.
My Rating: 7/10
Separately fermented then cross blended Chardonnay 53% and Pinot Noir 47%.
Laborie Blanc de Blancs 2011
This bottle of Laborie Blanc de Blancs was a Mother’s Day treat which we delayed opening as we had not yet chilled it, and if it isn’t chilled then don’t open it!
Their Tasting Notes: This complex and indulgent MCC shows clarity of fruit on the nose with hints of lime accompanied by aromas of toasted bread and hazelnut. The palate is creamy, round and textured with an explosive acidity and lasting, elegant finish.
My Tasting Notes: Loved the peachy colour and the wine label to suit. Lime and biscuit on the nose and a fine bead, this was outstanding at the price of R103.
My Rating: 8.5/10
Kaapzicht 2011 MCC
Last…..but not least, the Kaapzicht 2011 MCC. I really enjoyed watching this fine bead dancing in the lovely honey colour.
Their Tasting Notes: Hints of biscuit and whiffs of citrus on the nose compliment the vibrant palette and fine mousse.
My Tasting Notes: This was a delectable MCC, which had an intriguing colour and a striking palette. Pricing has not been officially set yet, but its going to be around the R250/bottle mark.
My Rating: 9/10 And no, its not because of the price. I only found out the price after the fact!
60% Chardonnay 40% Pinot Nior
So now you know 4 of my favourite South African MCC’s, what else is there to say but “Cheers!”