Yesterday Franschhoek Wine Valley and the Vignerons de Franschhoek producing Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wines hosted a preview of twelve of their sixteen MCC producers and products, in the beautiful setting of the Le Verger restaurant at the Le Franschhoek Hotel.
The Franschhoek MCC Route will be officially launched early in 2013, we were told by new Vignerons Chairman Irene Waller, winemaker and GM at La Bri. A full size map will be designed, for visitors to Franschhoek to use on their visits for MCC tastings. Ms Waller highlighted that the first MCC was made in Franschhoek by Achim von Arnim 32 years ago, while he was working at Boschendal, before he made his Pierre Jourdan sparkling wines in the French style on his own wine estate Haute Cabrière a few years later. Ms Waller also explained that the Vignerons de Franschhoek has three geographical boundaries, being Backsberg on the R45, Val de Vie, and Boschendal on the road to Stellenbosch, potentially confusing to consumers wine writer Angela Lloyd felt, in not reflecting the Franschhoek Wine of Origin demarcation.
Divided into Blanc de Blancs, Bruts, and Rosés, each of the twelve winemakers addressed the writers attending the MCC Preview, and highlighted how their bubbly is made, its price, and other special product and production details.
Blanc de Blancs
* Dieu Donné Methodé Cap Classique 2010 is made from Franschhoek vines, as a fresh easy drinking sparkling wine for the increasing number of weddings being hosted on the estate. 100% Chardonnay. Creamy, fresh apple, and lemon, with biscuity richness. 24 months on the lees. Whole bunch pressed, fermented in French oak. Hand riddling and degorging. 8000 bottles produced. R140 per bottle.
* Pierre Jourdan Blanc de Blancs NV was presented by the youngest von Arnim family member Tamo, its Brand Ambassador. In 1982 Achim von Arnim bought Cabrière, and in 1986 the first MCC was made, a blend of Chardonnay from De Wetshof (Danie de Wet and Achim von Arnim studying together at Geisenheim) and Pinot Noir at that time. Now it is produced from 100% Chardonnay, 40% matured in French oak for 4 – 5 months, which brings out vanilla. It is a perfect welcome drink, pairs well with a variety of foods, and is a perfect palate cleanser. Tamo shared that his sister-in-law Christiane is launching new Pierre Jourdan labels soon.
* Môreson Solitaire Blanc de Blancs NV is made by winemaker Clayton Reabow, whole bunch pressing being an important aspect of the production, he said, as is the ‘Cuvee juice’, being the first 250 litres per ton. All their production is non-vintage, keeping a reserve of four previous vintages. No fermentation or food additives make it the ‘cleanest bubbly’. 18 months on the lees. R89.
* L’Omarins Brut Classique 2008 is made by Dawie Botha, its 2008 produced MCC not yet released, it being its first public tasting. The bottle is label-less, embossed with JR (for Jean Roi, the first L’Omarins owner, and not Johan Rupert, we were told). Blend of 60% Chardonnay from Elandskloof and 40% Pinot Noir from Stellenbosch. 48 months on the lees, 4 months on cork. To be released in January 2013. R100.
* Colmant Cap Classique Brut Reserve NV owner JP Colmant (left) works with Nicolas Follet of Oenosense Consulting, a French winery consultant now based in Franschhoek. The MCC is one of three produced by Colmant, the others being a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blend, and a Brut Chardonnay Rosé. Grapes come from nine vineyards in Robertson, Elgin, Franschhoek, Somerset West, and Stellenbosch. 42000 bottles per year. Focus on fruit and freshness. No malolactic fermentation. Also endorses use of reserve wines of previous years, using 10% from previous vintage. R130.
* Plaisir de Merle Grand Brut 2010 is made by Neil Bester, and he explained that the Marketing department had recommended the development of a MCC, given the increasing number of weddings held at the wine estate. The Chardonnay grapes come from the farm, while Pinot Noir comes from Stellenbosch currently, but will be available on the farm from next year. Blend of 63% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay. Malolactic fermentation, 24 months on the lees. 12000 bottles, of which 4000 have been released. R140 – R150.
* Backsberg Sparkling Brut 2008 is a blend of 40% Pinot Noir and 60% Chardonnay, and is hand riddled, said its marketing executive Alana Ridley. It is made by winemaker Guillaume Nell. Whole bunch pressed. R110.
* La Motte MCC 2009 was presented by Edmund Terblanche, from grapes sourced from its own farm exclusively, a need that was stimulated by its restaurant Pierneef à La Motte. The Pinot Noir vines were planted in 1985 and the Chardonnay in the ‘Nineties. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, the blend proportion changing every year. Edmund said originally they had little knowledge of MCC-making, but learnt as they went along, experimenting with oaking. 25 months on the lees. Won Best MCC in the Terroir Awards in last two years. 3000 bottles. R200.
* Stony Brook The Lyle 2007 is now made by Craig McNaught, a fresh MCC blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir. All grapes are from their farm. 450 cases produced. 50 months on the lees. Brioche flavours. R115.
* Rickety Bridge Brut Rosé 2010 is made by Wynand Grobler, a blend of 50% Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Wynand joked and said he wanted to make a MCC, because he saw Achim von Arnim do the Sabrage and kiss the young ladies! His MCC uses 10% of their Reserve wine, and is Wine of Origin Franschoek. Hand harvested. Fresh acidity, uses signe method, 3500 bottles. R115.
* Boschendal Grand Pavillon Brut Rosé NV was presented by JC Bekker, but is made by Lizelle Gerber, saying that women winemakers are better at making MCCs. Strawberries on nose, and cream on the palate. No barrels, no malolactic fermentation. 24 months on the lees. The back label has all the MCC terminology, JC said.
* Morena Brut Rosé was presented by raconteur Nick Davies from Franschhoek Pass Winery, the highest vineyard in Franschhoek. They do a ‘green harvest’, and then 3 staged pickings. Half the grapes from own vineyard, balance from Stellenbosch, Robertson and Franschhoek. Zesty, fresh. No malolactic fermentation. 24 months on the lees. Blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. Nick has just returned from Champagne, and said that the international trend is to a fresher style, and that the target market is 25 – 40 year old females. R100
La Bri will release its first MCC in 2014. My Wyn, La Petite Ferme, Topiary, Noble Hill, and Cape Chamonix are also MCC producers on the new Franschhoek Cap Classique Route, but did not attend the presentation.
Le Franschhoek Hotel Chef Oliver Cattermole created a delicious feast of salmon dishes, an ideal pairing with the MCCs, and had prepared the salmon in various styles: Salmon and soy lollypops, Salmon California rolls with ginger and wasabi, Salmon marbles with rooibos and liquorice, Beetroot fermented salmon with mustard croissant, Salmon croquettes, Salmon pastrami on rye, Blackened salmon with “bloody orange” and vanilla mayo, and Sugar cured salmon and pain de épice sandwich.
The launch of the Franschhoek Cap Classique Route is a clever way of repackaging the Franschhoek wine estates, and will be an attraction to locals and tourists visiting what is now the most exciting wine region in South Africa, given that it is the home of the Platter Winery of the Year 2012 (Boekenhoutskloof) and 2013 (Cape Chamonix). MCC lovers can enjoy the Franschhoek MCCs, as well as those from other regions, at the Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival from 30 November – 2 December.
MCC (with Chardonnay) consumption is expected to increase, with a greater focus on natural and eco-friendly wines, Woolworths’ Allan Mullins was told when he asked a question about wine trends at our lunch table, making the Franschhoek Cap Classique Route on trend! It was unanimous at our table that the Colmant Brut Reserve was the best MCC tasted.
Disclosure: We received a bottle of MCC of our choice from the selection still available, ours being the La Motte MCC, with our media pack.
Franschhoek Cap Classique Route, Franschhoek Wine Valley. Tel (021) 876-2861. www.franschhoek.org.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage