Méthode Cap Classique: Perfection takes time!

We live in a world of instant gratification. Instant coffee. Instant meals. Even instant love (if so-called reality TV is to be believed!). But as any connoisseur knows, quality takes time. Like filter coffee from freshly ground beans. A meal made with fresh ingredients. And yes, even true love takes time to develop!

And so it is with wine, no matter what the style. Take sparkling wine (not the so-called “sodastream” type) or bubbly for example. The Cap Classique Producers Association has re-positioned its marketing objectives to highlight the importance of time in the making of fine South African bubbly. The change occurs simultaneously to a drive for changes in local legislation governing the production of Cap Classique, and for which the CCPA are lobbying.

In broad terms, the law will ultimately make provision for at least two categories within the definition of Cap Classique that are based on the period the wine spends on the lees. This is a very exciting time for Cap Classique.

“This is an important differentiator because it recognises the additional investment producers make in the pursuit of higher quality,” says Pieter Ferreira, chairperson of the CCPA. “It is also the reason for our new messaging that Cap Classique is perfected by time.”

In a statement, the CCPA says: “Here in the unique winelands of the Cape, we know patience. We take our time to craft Cap Classique, the way it has been done for centuries. And we are rewarded with a magnificent sparkling wine that’s a timeless classic.”

Only wines that satisfy strict regulations may be labelled as Cap Classique in South Africa. In its making, wine destined to become Cap Classique remains in the same bottle, start to finish. It is here too that bubbles develop as a result of a second, natural fermentation. This phase and the length of time that the wine spends in contact with the lees before its removal, introduce complexity, finesse and elegance to aroma and flavour. At a minimum, it takes nine months to produce a single bottle of Cap Classique.

The price of these wines is generally higher than standard sparkling wine, whose bubbles are inserted mechanically using CO2 gas, because the flavours and aromas that develop naturally take longer to do so. The Cap Classique bottle is also specially designed to contain the pressure generated by the fermentation.

“Many consumers do not know the difference between sparkling wines and Cap Classique,” says Pieter. “Our new positioning puts time centre-stage as the key differentiator to other sparkling wines. Through a combined effort we would like to see the Cap Classique category, name and logo being recognised as a premium offering that is synonymous with top quality.”

So next time you have the urge to get out of the house, or you’re in the Cape on holiday or business, discover the beautiful diversity of South Africa’s own bottle-fermented sparkling wine when visiting the winelands. The producers represent 28 different geographical areas. Today, Cap Classique is South Africa’s fastest growing wine category and members have a tireless quest for producing “the perfect bubble”.

We took our own advice and sampled just a few of the superb MCCs on offer.

Steenberg 1682 Brut Chardonnay NV

The Brut 1682 Chardonnay is a blanc de blanc and made exclusively from chardonnay grapes. It is made in the traditional French method and as such is designated Méthode Cap Classique.

The grapes were picked by hand at low sugar levels of 17 – 19°B and whole-bunch pressed. The juice that is extracted is low in phenols, high in natural acidity and relatively neutral in terms of varietal flavour. This juice ferments with a strong strain yeast to form the base wine of the MCC. Once the base wine is stabilised, it is fermented a second time in the bottle. During this secondary fermentation, the yeast produces CO2 which is the bubbles or mousse of the MCC. Post fermentation, the bubbly was aged on its yeast lees for a minimum of 12 months up to 18 months.

The 1682 Brut Chardonnay has a pale lemon colour and a delicate mousse. It exudes freshness and pure fruit on the nose, vibrant notes of Granny Smith apple, candied lemon rind and white peach. It is lively on the palate, displaying finesse and complexity with a crisp acidity. Flavours of lemon cordial, honeyed nectarines, toasted croissant and pistachio are evident on the palate. It has a long, yet refreshing finish. This Méthode Cap Classique is the quintessential drink for all occasions.

The Steenberg 1682 Brut Chardonnay NV sells for approximately R190 per bottle at the cellar.

De Grendel Méthode Cap Classique Brut 2017

The De Grendel MCC is a classic blend of 68% chardonnay and 32% pinot noir. Grape bunches were handpicked and gently whole-bunch pressed to produce a more elegant wine. After settling and racking, the juice was innoculated and fermented into base wine in stainless steel tanks where it underwent malolactic fermentation. The base wine was filtered and bottled with ‘Liqueur de Tirage’, a yeast and sugar mixture which facilitates secondary fermentation in the bottle which creates natural carbonation. The wine was aged on the yeast in the bottle for 15 months to create that delicious biscuit-like richness before dégorgement – the process whereby the yeast is removed to leave the wine beautifully clear. The result is a perfect bottle of Brut made in the Méthode Cap Classique style.

This bubbly is pale lemon colour with an exceptionally fine mousse. Fresh, crisp and crunchy green apple, Asian pears, lemon zest and white guava come to the fore on the nose. Warm brioche and yeast complexity broaden the palate, leading to a long and elegant finish. Rich, velvety and effortlessly elegant, no wonder the De Grendel MCC is so popular among sparkling wine aficionados.

This Méthode Cap Classique is the ideal drink for all occasions and is the most versatile wine for food pairings. Enjoy it as an aperitif before dinner, with creamy Mascarpone-scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and cream cheese canapés or a warm baked apple tarte tatin.

The 2017 vintage can be enjoyed now or matured for another 5 years and sells for approximately R220 per bottle.

Nederburg Méthode Cap Classique Brut 2013

The very first successful attempt at creating an MCC at Nederburg, it’s meant to commemorate the farm’s journey of more than two centuries of winemaking excellence.

This sophisticated, elegantly complex and dry effervescent sparkling wine is made in the traditional bottle-fermented style, from a cellar-selected blend of premium noble grape varieties, chardonnay (50%) and pinot noir (50%).

Hand-picked grapes were sourced from top-performing vineyards, situated in Stellenbosch, Durbanville and Simondium. Cooled by maritime breezes for optimal ripening of the fruit, the Pinot noir vines grow in deep red soil, while the Chardonnay vineyards are established in supplementary irrigated sandy/loam soil.

Both the chardonnay and pinot noir grapes were harvested by hand when it had reached an optimal level of ripeness. The grapes were whole-bunch pressed and the juice left to settle overnight. After cold and partial malolactic fermentation, it was prepared for secondary bottle fermentation. The wine was left on the lees for 72 months before the sediment was removed using the traditional process of remuage and dégorgement.

This impressive MCC Brut is bright and clear in colour with golden undertones.  Expect delicate aromas of crisp green apples, orange peel and almonds opening up into red berries. The rich, layered and elegantly dry palate is reminiscent of freshly-baked brioche with notes of citrus and juicy red berry fruit.

An ideal accompaniment to any occasion, this MCC Brut is outstanding with fresh sushi, oysters and caviar, fresh summer salads, cold soups and many other dishes. The effervescence cuts through butter, egg or cream-based sauces, while the acidity serves to either clean the palate after subtly flavoured dishes, or compliment the tartness of tomato-based dishes.

Nederburg’s first MCC sells for approximately R195 per bottle at the cellar.

Nuy CELINE Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut 2017

The first Méthode Cap Classique from Nuy, it celebrates the life of Elsaline (Celine) Cloete who was a remarkable woman who actively farmed in the Nuy Valley till the age of 97 and was loved and highly respected by the whole farming community.

This MCC is a blend of 80% chardonnay and 20 % pinot noir.  It was matured on the lees for 26 months. Only 1 000 bottles were released and individually marked.

CELINE offers a fruity, flinty, nutty and creamy nose. These flavours are carried through to the palate, and the bubbly has a biscuit finish.

The CELINE Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut 2017 sells for approximately R180 per bottle.

And in case you don’t know, the Cap Classique Producers’ Association (CCPA) was established in 1992 to promote South Africa’s premium Cap Classique wines, as well as the common interests of the producers.

For more information, visit www.capclassique.co.za or email info@capclassique.co.za.

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