Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is South Africa’s version of champagne. It’s made using the same traditional French champagne method (methode champenoise). The difference between South African MCC and French champagne is that it doesn’t use Champagne grapes, which can only be grown in Champagne region of France. South African MCCs, on the other hand, use local grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Méthode Cap Classique is not the same thing as sparkling wine. Most sparkling wines in South Africa are either tank-fermented or injected with carbon dioxide—they not made using the traditional French method.
How to spot the difference
Look closely at the bubbles:
- MCC will have tiny bubbles with refined effervescence
- Sparkling wine has a larger, coarser fizz
You can also get bottle-fermented wines that are not MCC; although they have been fermented, they have not gone through the same lengthy process as MCC wines.
A relative newcomer
MCC only appeared in South Africa less than 50 years ago. In fact, South Africa’s first MCC was released in 1971. It was sold for R3 a bottle, which made it the most expensive local wine available at the time. Now, it has become one of the fastest-growing categories of wine in the country.
How to enjoy South African MCC
Méthode Cap Classique provides a full sensory experience. It is also regarded as one of the most versatile wines, since it can be enjoyed throughout the day and evening, even at breakfast! MCCs pair well with dishes such as canapés, oysters, cheese, chicken and fish; sweeter bubbles can be paired with light curries and desserts. Like traditional champagne, MCC is also a celebratory drink, enjoyed at special occasions and celebrations.
How MCC is made
To make MCC, the winemaker must first create a base wine. This is then bottled, and a mixture of wine, yeast and sugar, ‘liqueur de tirage’, is added. This combination of ingredients promotes the second fermentation process. During this second process, carbon dioxide can’t escape (as it would do in still wine). This causes bubbles of gas to be captured inside the bottle.
To ensure a clear, sparkling wine, the sediment formed during fermentation needs to be removed through a process called remuage. This involves storing the bottles in pupitres and turning them every day for a few weeks. With each turn, the bottle is tilted further onto its head. This causes all the sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle. To remove it, the necks of the bottles are placed in a very cold brine bath to freeze the sediment. The bottle top is removed, and the pressure causes an ice cube of sediment to shoot out the bottle (a process called degorgement). As a final step, more liqueur de tirage is added to top up the bottle.
What to look for in a good MCC
The main criteria used to determine a top-quality MCC:
- Vintage (the year the grapes are harvested)
- Cultivar (the name given to the type of grapes used)
- Sugar level
The MCC at Quoin Rock is made using a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The cultivars are sourced from several very different terroirs—Stellenbosch (Quoin Rock Wine Estate) and Elim farm. This gives Quoin Rock’s MCC a very distinctive flavour:
- The Elim grapes provide a crisp acidity and freshness
- The Stellenbosch fraction adds length and body with fruit
Quoin Rock’s MCC also spends a lengthy 54 months on the second fermentation lees in the bottle, which allows beautiful brioche aromas to develop.
A combination of careful planning and great care is put into creating Quoin Rock’s MCC, with each block of grapes treated separately throughout the entire fermentation and ageing process. This allows winemakers to monitor each component and step, making subtle tweaks where necessary. During the harvest season, the Quoin Rock team picks the grapes early in the day and in cool temperatures to preserve the ultimate freshness and flavour of the wine.
Once the grapes have been picked, the base wine is fermented in old French Oak barrels to ensure the MCC’s length and body. Stainless steel tanks help the wine achieve its freshness and exceptional flavour.
Quoin Rock MCC is the perfect companion for meal or light picnic snacks on a warm summer’s day. The distinctive tiny bubbles create an elegant drink that can be served the finest fare, or simply chilled, popped and poured with laughter and celebrations!
Currently, Quoin Rock’s 2014 vintage MCC is available to purchase. The deep flavours of green apple, honey-oats, biscuit and lime can be credited to the winemakers of Quoin Rock. After being stored in second-fill French Oak barrels, this wine was bottle-aged on the lees for 52 months. Once disgorged, it was given a further six months bottle maturation.
A wine to watch
With a remarkable vintage in 2009 producing excellent grapes with good composition, Quoin Rock believed it was worth creating something special and ageing the wine. Quoin Rock’s limited edition, 2009 Blanc de Blanc MCC is now newly released. This is a particularly special offering from the Stellenbosch-based wine farm. It was created using only the best parts of their Elim farm’s Chardonnay blocks. The grapes for this 2009 vintage were whole-bunch pressed and stored in French Oak barrels for seven months. Following the strict guidelines of producing a Méthode Cap Classique, the wine was allowed to mature on the lees for an astounding 103 months before being disgorged. A further two years of bottle maturation resulted in a special, limited edition bottle of MCC with depth and complexity that was well worth the wait.