Prescient Cap Classique Report 2020: Top 10

By , 17 March 2020




The inaugural Cap Classique Report sponsored by multinational financial services company Prescient is now out. There were 50 entries received from 27 producers and these were tasted blind (labels out of sight) by a three-person panel, scoring done according to the 100-point quality scale.

Image: Reciprocal Wine Company.

Top 10

The 10 best wines overall were as follows:

Babylonstoren Sprankel 2014
Babylonstoren Sprankel 2015
Benguela Cove Joie de Vivre 2017
Cavalli Capriole 2018
Delaire Graff Sunrise Brut NV
Genevieve Blanc de Blancs 2015
Kleine Zalze Brut NV
Kleine Zalze Vintage Brut 2013
Peter Falke Signature Noelina 2015
Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2014

Which areas are to the fore?

Congratulations to Simonsberg-Paarl property Babylonstoren on having two vintages of its Sprankel in the Top 10, while Kleine Zalze cellar also has two wines, these both W.O. “Western Cape” as is the Sunrise Brut NV from Delaire Graff. Of the others, three are from Stellenbosch and one each from Cape South Coast and Walker Bay. Of the 50 wines entered in total, 23 fell under the rather broad designation of Western Cape, an indication that Cap Classique is as much about technique as terroir.

What does top bubbly go for these days?

The average price of the 13 wines to rate 90-plus is R309 a bottle and of the Top 10 is R345. Offering the best quality relative to price is the Kleine Zalze Brut NV at R136 a bottle.

In-depth analysis

To read the report in full, including key findings, tasting notes for the top wines and scores on the 100-point quality scale for all wines entered, download the following: Prescient Cap Classique Report 2020




25 comment(s)

Please read our Comments Policy here.

    SvdH | 26 March 2020

    I wasn’t surprised to see the KZ brut NV in the top 10. At R136 it is great value too. KZ keeps delivering great wines at different price points and of most varietals.

    Nice job As always guys, no complaints!

    Lisa Harlow | 26 March 2020

    I am quite shocked by this report, Avery small number of entries and more than one vintage from some producers, actually makes it an even smaller sample
    I have a huge issue with MCC when comparing it to either champagne or quality champenoise sparkling wine from around the world.
    It’s often flabby, lacks autolytic characters and dosages are way too high and they just feel very out of balance. Some in your top 10, I would definitely place in taste alongside Prosecco plonk
    But I think that your local taste is for a sweeter wine, not really Champagne like in quality
    Most of the best versions are missing from your report, imo and I agree with Angela and Tim, it would have been good to see an MCC expert with international sparkling experience in the panel
    It would have been nice to see Silverthorn, Black Elephant Vintners, Tokara, La Bri, Colmant, Charles Fox. All of which make excellent MCC that would stand up to Champagne

      Christian Eedes | 26 March 2020

      Hi Lisa, Just to be clear, producers are required to pay a fee in order to be included in the tastings that form the basis of any of our reports and it is entirely their prerogative whether they choose to or not. Also, I urge you to try our top 10 – you may be pleasantly surprised…

      Chantelle Johansson | 5 April 2020

      I certainly agree with you!

    Gareth | 19 March 2020

    Hi Christain, I’ve been curious for a few days now and I’m finally asking the question that I was sure somebody else would. Could you please let me know what the panel picked up as being problematic with the Cuve Clive in this blind tasting?
    Many thanks

      Christian Eedes | 19 March 2020

      Hi Gareth, The characteristic that all members of the panel picked up on was a curious tomato sauce flavoured chip character, something you might associate with pyrazines but bafflingly the Cuvee Clive is 100% Chardonnay. In addition, the feeling was that the wine came across as chunky and dull – we opened both bottles submitted with the same result.

    spoegbak | 18 March 2020

    oh christian your always wrong , i love u , let me just deposit some cash now, we need u , seriously dude your the man, keep fighting , u know the story about the mice in the cream , but serious dude u are the man , yes they all complain oooh u gave it 85 it needs a 95 , f them , your the man, have i mentioned your the man , but chris why did u rate fchville cab 2016 only 90 ? i scored it a 92

    GillesP | 17 March 2020

    Does this still make sense to publish such a report with so little number of entrants and missing all the major quality MCC producers in the country?

    Angela Lloyd | 17 March 2020

    I think there are too few (no?) independent cap classique judges who are qualified to give an authoritative opinion.

      Christian Eedes | 17 March 2020

      Hi Angela, With respect, are supposedly “technically difficult” categories like Cap Classique and Port-style deserving of special privileges while we can all weigh in on lesser categories? Obviously, a minimum amount of knowledge and experience is required before a panel has authority but I would like to think I, James and Roland have demonstrated that over time.

        Duncan | 18 March 2020

        As a consumer, I’m perfectly satisfied with taking guidance in this category from a generalist tasting panel as part of their overall assessment of SA wine (as with all their – or anyone’s – findings, I will of course make my own inexpert judgements too).

        If winemag started a standalone MCC certification business, or if there were some kind official ranking, then it should, of course, be guided by specialists.

    Jp colmant | 17 March 2020

    ‘It might seem churlish to be so negative about such a popular category, but we would suggest that quality improvements need to be made urgently lest credibility is lost.’

    Your comment in the intro. But I think you could have commented that the sample maybe was very little representative of the overall offer on the market, as there are close to 400 labels on the market. So I believe it is a bit hasty and unfair to make such a comment on the category.

    On the other hand, Christian, I am very surprised of your perception (still!) of the ‘vintage’ category… I really thought that the concept of non vintage as potentially great cap classique style would have made its way with you as it has with most bubbly lovers. Thank you Tim for your very sensible comments.

      Christian Eedes | 17 March 2020

      Hi JP, Clearly the Cap Classique category is large and vibrant – disappointing that frontrunners like yourself, Boschendal, Le Lude, Silverthorn and whatever is happening at Distell in terms of JC Le Roux and Pongracz did not see fit to participate. Even so, category stalwarts like Graham Beck, Haute Cabriere, Simonsig and Villiera did and they were all there or there abouts with at least one wine. In any event, the very well-established Amorim MCC Challenge received 134 entries in 2019 so we are happy with 50 in year one of our category report.

      As for Non-Vintage, I certainly do not think such wines are lesser to Vintage wines – what arises out of this tasting is that extended time on lees is not automatically a good thing. I also suspect that there will be a good few members of the Cap Classique inside-circle who will be scoffing at Kleine Zalze Brut NV which spent all of 10 months on the lees placing Top 10 but go and taste it for a very successful, exhilarating light style made by a crack team of winemakers…

        Jp colmant | 17 March 2020

        Thanks for your prompt feedback. Regarding entering or not a competition, you must remember that for smaller producers the cost is the same as for large producers. Hence, and considering the high expense, big wineries are seen entering wines much more often (much smaller part of their marketing budget) and statistically more often win. Who will start a more ‘democratic’ and inclusive competition where at least part of the entry fee is proportional to the size of the production / winery ???

    Johann Deale | 17 March 2020

    What !!! Neither Graham Beck, not Pierre Jordan, amongst them ??? Wow !!!
    Can’t wait to see the rankings (as well as, the names of all participants) at the end of the year

      Christian Eedes | 17 March 2020

      Hi Johann, 13 wines – the Top 10 plus three others – rated 90-plus, two of these being Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2015 and Pierre Jourdan Belle Rose NV, both on 90. You can get full scores by downloading the report (link above).

    David | 17 March 2020

    Invite Richard Juhlin for a blind tasting of all quality MCC makers. That would make an interesting read with an outside expert perspective.

    Gareth | 17 March 2020

    Could you please share the scores for the top 10?

      Christian Eedes | 17 March 2020

      HI Gareth, Slight change to our usual way of working. We are set to produce 13 category reports over the course of this year and will announce a Top 10 with the release of each successive report. The tasting programme culminates in a gala dinner at the end of year where the individual best wine per category will receive an award and ratings on the 100-point quality scale for all the Top 10 wines will be revealed.

    Tim James | 17 March 2020

    I’ll leave it to someone else to wonder why Cuvée Clive got one of the lowest scores on the tasting, somewhat against reputation. But I do think your report could have had some depth of discussion about the MCC category – not even a mention of varieties, for example, although one of your Top 10 (Delaire Graff) has a decidedly unclassic make-up (and is pretty idiosyncratic in character, in my opinion). How many of the entries (or the category as a whole) use chenin, for example – that would be interesting to know. What proportion of the white wines are blancs de blancs? (And why, leading to what character?)

    Also, I think your reference in the report – as a matter “of particular concern” – to vintage versus non-vintage is a bit misleading, given that this is not a stylistic matter in South Africa (to the regret of top producers like Colmant, for example): surely the majority of MCCs are released displaying a vintage, whether or not they’re aged for anything longer than the stipulated minimum. And how many of the NVs are actually the carefully balanced blends with reserve wines that one would expect from champagne? Rather similarly, the fact that many examples come from single properties doesn’t necessarily argue a great concern with being analogous to “grower champagnes” – most of them are just another wine in the large line-up designed to appeal to a wide range of customers. You had, I think, four of the large handful of specialist MCC producers in your line-up; that’s worth a mention, I’d say.

    Incidentally, I really think that judging a category like this, even more than most, would benefit hugely from some specialist, experienced expertise on the panel. I’d even venture to guess (hope, really) that if you did you would get more of the top-end producers to enter.

      Christian Eedes | 17 March 2020

      Hi Tim, Out of the Top 10, four were 100% Chardonnay, the two wines from Babylonstoren were heavily Chardonnay dominated, three were more equal Chardonnay:Pinot blends and then, as you say, the more maverick Delaire Graff consisting of 64% Chenin Blanc, 30% Chardonnay and 6% Cabernet Franc. Of the rest of the line-up, 21 were variations on the Chard-Pinot blend, seven were 100% Chardonnay, four were 100% Pinot Noir, four included small portions of Pinot Meunier (in addition to Chard and Pinot) and only another four could be said to deviate from the “Champagne model”, these being Groot Constantia Brut Rosé NV (63% Pinotage, 20% Pinot Noir and 17% Chardonnay), Filia Kaap Klassiek 2015 (100% Chenin Blanc), Huis van Chevallerie Circa Brut Rosé NV (100% Pinotage) and Huis van Chevallerie The Hummingbird 2019 (75% Viura and 25% Chenin). As is often, the case the Chardonnay-driven wines seem to be particularly successful but my feeling is that this is more about chemical analysis and structure than aromatics and flavour.

      As to your point about vintage, my perception is that producers use this as a way of indicating extended time on the lees and therefore potentially of higher quality than a non-vintage. Whether this is the case in reality or not, is a moot point, at least as far as this tasting is concerned.

      Lastly, by “specialist, experienced expertise” I presume you mean a Cap Classique-committed winemaker. This would obviously be one way of going about things but I don’t believe that the outcome would necessarily be more valid – the panel is composed of a journalist and two members of the off-con trade and our focus is aesthetics/consumer appeal while anybody looking for extra rigorous technical tasting can follow a competition like Veritas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Like our content?

Show your support.