About the category: M√©thode Cap Classique (MCC) is South African sparkling wine made by means of wine undergoing a second fermentation in bottle. The bottle is filled with wine, to which sugar and yeast are added, causing the second fermentation. This gives off CO2 ‚ the bubble in the final product. The MCC Association was formed in 1992 to protect the making and quality of these wines.
Key findings: MCCs have become a major role player in the South African wine industry. This is illustrated in the signifi cant growth in the quantities produced, the rising price and the growing volume of sales, as well as the booming number of entries received in the Amorim Cork Cap Classique Challenge, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
The first question for this year’s panel was whether quality had kept pace with growth. With so many new products entering the market, it was felt that the experience gained by long-standing producers was invaluable. A clear example was provided by Stellenbosch wine estate Simonsig, which, apart from making South Africa’s first Champagne-method sparkling wine in 1971, won the competition in 2002, 2009 and this year.
An important consideration is where the grapes are grown and how ripe they are harvested. To maintain acidity, they should be picked early but not unripe, as this will lead to lean and sharp wines, whereas, by contrast, very ripe grapes will produce flabby wines that will not last. There were examples of both of these in this tasting but certainly fewer than in past years.
A critical quality factor is the amount of time the wine is left in the bottle on its used yeast cells (the lees) after the second fermentation. The cells open up (autolyse) and give the wine richness and flavour, with the optimum time depending on the quality of the base wine. The yeastiness should enhance the fruit character of the wine, not dominate it. A perfectly judged example is Simonsig’s winning wine, which spent over five years on its lees.
The panel picked up oakiness on a number of the wines and felt that some winemakers were too enthusiastic in their oaking of the base wines. Although some Champagne houses mature their base wines in barrel, it would be very rare to pick this up in the finished product.
Two wines rated 4¬Ω Stars and 15 rated 4 Stars in the tasting. The two 4¬Ω-Star wines were re-poured for a taste-off to decide the overall winner.
On the whole, the tasting confirmed the quality upswing that MCC wines have undergone since Amorim Cork sponsored the first challenge in 2002. There were a few wines that seemed to have been rushed onto the market to join in the sales boom, but the panel’s feeling was that the category is strong and still offers.remarkable value in world terms.
Sub-categories: The first category judged was Non-Vintage MCCs, which consisted of 15 wines. Most of the wines were fresh and suitable for early drinking. This was to be expected, although there were a number of lean, sharp wines with too high acidity. Two wines scored 4 Stars, with five scoring 2¬Ω Stars or lower.
The Vintage category (24 entries) offered diverse styles and caused much discussion among the panel. A point of contention was that, while South African MCCs need only spend a minimum of nine months on their lees, in France, Non-Vintage and Vintage Champagnes must spend at least 12 and 36 months respectively. This does not allow Vintage status to be awarded to a wine of higher quality.
Jeff Grier, chairman of the MCC Association, assured me that legislation was underway to sort this out. The proposed system would consist of two tiers, the first requiring 12 months and the second 24 months on the lees. The first tier could include uncertified wines using different varieties, while wines in the second tier would need to be certifi ed and made from the varieties used in Champagne.
There were 22 Blanc de Blancs (made from white grapes, normally Chardonnay), four 4 Stars and one 4¬Ω Stars. This is usually a highly scored category, with three winners in the 10 years of the competition. Oak was rather too obvious on some wines, but there were many that showed good development with age. There were a few green wines made from unripe grapes, but fewer than in previous years.
The Ros√© (15 entries) category showed the most variation. Colours ranged from palest salmon to rosy pink, and fl avours from lean and austere to tutti-frutti. This has been a strong category in the past, but there was a lack of consistency. Although there were very fine examples, it seems as if some producers, noting the rise in popularity of this style of bubbly, were joining the rush to Ros√© trend too quickly.
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Boschendal Grande Cuv√©e Brut 2007
CELLAR PRICE: R105
Alc 12.5% RS 7g/l TA 7.4g/l pH 3.33
Chardonnay 54%, Pinot Noir 46%. Pale lemon-yellow with a tiny bead. Citrus, melon and white peach on the nose show the use of fine Chardonnay, Pinot Noir adding richness to the palate. A big, bold bubbly with very fresh zippy acidity. Complex now, but will grow and develop for a further four to five years.
AM 17 | HD 17 | GDF 17 | MC 17 | JP 16.5
Simonsig Cuv√©e Royale Blanc de Blancs 2005
CELLAR PRICE: R180
Alc 12.5% RS 3.5g/l TA 7.5g/l pH 3.28
Chardonnay 96%, Pinot Noir 4%. Five years on the lees. Shimmering lemongold. Enticingly mature Chardonnay
aromas of citrus blossom and white peach with a lightly honeyed toasty overlay. The palate has depth and complexity enlivened by a brisk freshness. The mousse fills the mouth with a creamy burst of fruit, nuts and tingling bubbles. Amazing length of flavour.
AM 15 | HD 18 | GDF 18 | MC 18 | JP 17.5
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Kumkani Infinity 2007 (the company of wine people)
CELLAR PRICE: R79
Alc 12% RS 9g/l TA 6.3g/l pH 3.3
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier. Pale gold. Baked apple pie, almonds and marzipan on slightly oxidative nose.
Richly textured and focused palate. Drink now rather than cellar.
AM 16 | HD 16 | GDF 15 | MC 17 | JP 16
Hoopenburg Integer NV
CELLAR PRICE: R90
Alc 11.9% RS 1g/l TA 9.2g/l pH 3.13
Chardonnay 100%. Yellow with a youthful green glow. Toasty, roasted nuts with lime and peach on the nose. Fresh entry on the zesty palate with a clean, limey finish. Drink now to three years.
AM 17 | HD 16 | GDF 16 | MC 17 | JP 16.5
Laborie Blanc de Blanc 2007
CELLAR PRICE: R90
Alc 12% RS 11g/l TA 6.6g/l pH 3.37
Chardonnay 100%. Straw yellow. A bright nose with citrus, yeasty notes and hints of vanilla. The palate is full and
rich with honeyed flavours indicating some development. Drink now to 2013.
AM 17 | HD 15.5 | GDF 15 | MC 17.5 | JP 14
Pongr√°cz Brut NV
CELLAR PRICE: R90
Alc 11.9% RS 9.6g/l TA 6.4g/l pH 3.3
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Pale gold with an exuberant mousse. Floral with lemon grass, spice and some leesiness. A clean, elegant, almost austere palate with good length. Will age three to four years.
AM 16 | HD 17.5 | GDF 17 | MC 16.5 | JP 16
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2009
CELLAR PRICE: R90
Alc 12.6% RS 6g/l TA 7.6g/l pH 3.32
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier. Lemon-yellow with a consistent bubble. Nose blends red berry fruits with citrus and vanilla. An elegant palate with finesse and a lively mousse. Will age four to five years.
AM 16.5 | HD 16.5 | GDF 17 | MC 15 | JP 16
Woolworths Villiera ‚The Black Label’ M√©thode Cap Classique Vintage Reserve 2006
CELLAR PRICE: R99.95
Alc 12.2% RS 8.1g/l TA 6.3g/l pH 3.36
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Bright yellowgold with a persistent mousse. The nose shows pleasing development with brioche, biscuit and honey. Rich, full and creamy palate with a fi ne line of acidity. Drink now or in two to three years.
AM 16.5 | HD 16.5 | GDF 15 | MC 16.5 | JP 15.5
Altydgedacht MCC Blanc de Blanc 2008
CELLAR PRICE: R100
Alc 12.7% RS 10g/l TA 7.3g/l pH 3.31
Chardonnay 100%. Deep yellow with consistent bubble. Yeasty with baked apple, almond nuttiness. A good, well-textured palate with yellow fruits and an attractive creaminess. Ready to drink.
AM 15 | HD 17 | GDF 16 | MC 16.5 | JP 15
Weltevrede Philip Jonker Brut The Ring 2007
CELLAR PRICE: R109
Alc 12.5% RS 4.2g/l TA 7.1g/l pH 3.33
Chardonnay 100%. Yellow with vibrant green tinges. Aroma of white fruits and toasted brioche. Lemon, hazelnut and vanilla on the racy palate. Full and lingering finish. Will age for three to four years.
AM 16 | HD 16 | GDF 16 | MC 16 | JP 16.5
Weltevrede Philip Jonker Brut Aletheia 2007
CELLAR PRICE: R129
Alc 13% RS 5.5g/l TA 7.5g/l pH 3.34
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Straw yellow. Citrus minerality, yeastiness on the nose. The palate has a pure fruit core with a riveting acid line and structure. Can age for four years.
AM 16.5 | HD 17 | GDF 15.5 | MC 16 | JP 14
Domaine Des Dieux Claudia 2007
CELLAR PRICE: R130
Alc 12.5% RS 6.2g/l TA 8.2g/l pH 3.22
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. An onion-skin hue with nimble bubbles. Delicate red berry fruits with a touch of wild strawberries.Drier style with subtle red fruitiness and a clean, almost austere fi nish. Three years’ maturation potential.
AM 16 | HD 17.5 | GDF 15 | MC 15 | JP 16.5
Villiera Monro 2005
CELLAR PRICE: R144
Alc 12.3% RS 8.8g/l TA 5.8g/l pH 3.41
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Yellow honey. Lemon-cream, ripe brioche, touch earthy. Broad, rich palate with brioche and
vanilla. Creamy and complex with vibrant acidity and a mouth-watering finish.
AM 17 | HD 16 | GDF 14.5 | MC 16 | JP 15.5
Anura Brut 2007
CELLAR PRICE: R149
Alc 12.5% RS 1.6g/l TA 8g/l pH 3.28
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Straw yellow. Biscuity with white fruits and touch of oak. Seamless integration of fruit and
oak with a lively acidity and a long finish. Drink now or over four years.
AM 16 | HD 17 | GDF 16 | MC 15.5 | JP 15.5
Môreson One Brut 2007
CELLAR PRICE: R160
Alc 12.5% RS 3.3g/l TA 7.3g/l pH 3.1
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Bright yellow with tiny bubble. Citrus fruit and white pear with yeasty contrast. Mouth-fi lling palate has pure fruit and shows good development. Fine, lightly creamy mousse. Drink now or over the next two years.
AM 15.5 | HD 16 | GDF 15 | MC 17 | JP 15.5
Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blancs 2007
CELLAR PRICE: R205
Alc 12.7% RS 9.1g/l TA 5.7g/l pH 3.44
Chardonnay 100%. Bright lemon-yellow with a fine bead. Citrus-packed with lemon zest and subtle toastiness. Palate is tightly packed and intense. Explosive mousse in mouth. Will age gracefully for five years.
AM 16 | HD 16 | GDF 16 | MC 17 | JP 14.5
Desiderius 2003 (Pongr√°cz)
CELLAR PRICE: R235
Alc 11.9% RS 8.2g/l TA 6.8g/l pH 3.2
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Yellow gold. Maturation character of baked apple and toasted brioche. Rich with creamy bread and biscuit flavours and a nutty, honeyed finish. Drink now.
AM 16.5 | HD 15 | GDF 17 | MC 18 | JP 13
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Graham Beck Brut NV (375ml) R65
Laborie Brut 2008 R70
Weltevrede Philip Jonker Brut Entheos NV R79
Woolworths Villiera M√©thode Cap Classique Blanc de Blancs NV R89.95
Sterhuis Blanc de Blancs 2008 R95
Graham Beck Brut NV (750ml) R98
Graham Beck Brut Ros√© NV R98
Spier Brut 2007 R98
Spier M√©thode 2009 R98
Bon Courage Jacques Bru√©re Blanc de Blancs 2006 R110
Bon Courage Jacques Bru√©re Brut Reserve 2007 R110
Pierre Jourdan Cuv√©e Belle Rose NV R119
De Wetshof Brut NV R182
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Table Bay Brut NV R54.99
Krone Borealis Vintage Cuv√©e Brut 2008 R75
Villion Blanc de Blanc NV (Viljoensdrift) R75
Môreson Solitaire Blanc de Blancs Brut NV R89
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2007 R90
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Ros√© 2009 R90
Boschendal Le Grand Pavillon Brut Ros√© NV R92
Woolworths Simonsig Limited Release Pinot Noir Ros√© 2009 R99.95
JC Le Roux Pinot Noir Ros√© 2008 R110
Pongr√°cz Ros√© NV R110
Rhebokskloof 2007 R120
Ross Gower Pinot Noir Brut 2008 R125
Domaine Des Dieux Rose of Sharon 2008 R130
De Grendel Brut 2009 R140
Colmant Brut Chardonnay NV R158
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2008 (1.5¬¢) R205
Constantia Uitsig Brut 2007 R245
Steenberg 1682 Pinot Noir Brut Ros√© 2008 R270
Deetlefs Familie 2006 R320
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Môreson Miss Molly Bubbly NV R69
Schalkenbosch Cuv√©e Brut Limited Release 2007 R75
Zorgvliet Blanc de Blancs 2008 R75
Woolworths Villiera M√©thode Cap Classique Brut NV R79.95
Môreson Pink NV R117
Steenberg 1682 Chardonnay Brut 2009 R120
Colmant Reserve Brut NV R124
Muratie 1763 2008 R135
Villiera Monro 2006 R144
Villiera Tradition Brut NV (1.5¬¢) R163.20
Cederberg Blanc de Blancs Brut 2006 R185
Graham Beck Brut NV (1.5¬¢) R195
Graham Beck Brut Ros√© 2008 R205
Woolworths Villiera M√©thode Cap Classique Brut Ros√© NV R79.95
De Wet Cellar Cravate Brut 2009 R80
JC Le Roux Pinot Noir 2008 R83
Waverley Hills Brut 2009 R95
Woolworths Villiera M√©thode Cap Classique Brut Natural 2008 R99.95
Groot Constantia NV R141
Colmant Brut Ros√© NV R152
Pierre Jourdan Cuv√©e Reserve R224
Christina van Loveren Brut Limited Release NV (Van Loveren) R74
Dieu Donn√© Brut Blanc de Blancs 2009 R95
Weltevrede Philip Jonker Brut Lindlize Ros√© NV R96
Mooiplaas Duel NV R127
Two M√©thode Cap Classique wines tasted did not receive a Star rating.
PRICES: Wines in each quality grouping are listed in order of ascending price ‚ all ex-cellar unless otherwise stipulated.
ARP ‚ Approximate retail price
Tagged Wine Categories explained