TSOGO SUN SOUTHERN SUN THE CULLINAN HOTEL, CAPE TOWN.
26 July 2013
JUDGES: Allan Mullins CWM (Chair), Neil Pendock, Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright CWM, Cathy Marston, Giorgio Meletiou, Jaume Gramona Marti.
COORDINATOR: Miguel Chan of Tsogo Sun
Methode Cap Classique (MCC) is the name given to South African sparkling wines made in the "champagne method", in which wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. This is the 11th year that Amorin Cork have sponsored the challenge.
The local judges were joined on the panel by Jaume Gramona Marti, the chairman of the Spanish Cava Association. Cava being Spanish sparkling wine made in the "champagne method."
In 1992, the Cap Classique Association (CCA) was established with 14 members.
Currently it has over 90 members with Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira of Graham Beck Wines the chairman.
As consumers discover the delights of Methode Cap Classique sales are soaring and more and more wineries are producing wines with a bubble. Last year there were 70 entries for the Challenge while this year 100 bubblies were put before the judges.
Judging was done using a 100 point system. Seven MCCs received double gold medals and a certificate for scoring 90 points and over, while 25 were awarded gold medals for scoring between 85 and 90 points.
The obvious question to ask was whether the quality of MCCs had kept pace with the growth in quantity and maintained the improvement noted in last year's Amorim MCC Challenge.
The results suggested that it had. The judges agreed and were unanimous in their praise of the category's consistency and the excellence of many of the wines.
There were noticeably fewer disappointing MCCs than last year. I feel that this is due to newer producers gaining experience both in the cellar and in choosing cooler, more suitable vineyards for their grapes.
Grapes for good MCC wines need to ripen as slowly as possible and must be harvested at the optimum time. MCCs made from grapes that are harvested too early will be lean and acidic and harvesting too late will result in dull and flabby wines.
I have also been very impressed at the willingness with which established MCC winemakers have given advice and help to new producers.
The most notable feature of the challenge was how well many of the MCCs had aged. Wines in the Museum Class (open to wines older than 2008) and older examples in the Vintage Brut Class stood out for their complexity and depth of flavour. This was in contrast to the earlier MCCs, whose vivacity and sparkle did not last much beyond 2 to 3 years.
2009 was a standout vintage for still wines and it proved to be the same for MCCs all the vintage classes (except obviously the Museum class) were won by MCCs from
The reason that some of the MCCs were scored down was high levels of acidity and noticeable oak flavours. The top wines showed great balance, depth of flavour, a minute and persistent mousse and a long finish.
THE DIFFERENT CATEGORIES.
BLANC DE BLANC [29 wines. 7 Non-Vintage, 22 Vintage].
WINNER BLANC DE BLANC VINTAGE: RICKETY BRIDGE BLANC DE BLANC 2009.
WINNER BLANC DE BLANC NON-VINTAGE: COLMANT
Blanc de Blanc MCCs are made solely from white grapes, usually Chardonnay. This category has performed well in the past but was rather less impressive this year. A number of the wines were dull with little flavour or over acidic.
There was noticeable greenness in some wines while others displayed over oaking.
ROSÉ [20 wines. 6 Non-Vintage, 14 Vintage]
WINNER ROSÉ VINTAGE: GRAHAM BECK ROSÉ
WINNER ROSÉ NON-VINTAGE: GRAHAM BECK
A category that was polarised between outstanding wines and mediocre wines. Colours varied from a faint hint of pink to a deep rosy colour. Rosé bubblies have become particularly popular recently and although some were charming with pleasing elegance others seemed to have been rushed onto the market.
WINNER MUSEUM CLASS: SIMONSIG KAAPSE VONKEL 2007. [13 wines]
Without a doubt this was the class that got the judges most excited. A few of the wines showed touches of oxidation but most had aged venerably.
Simonsig were fitting winners having produced the first "champagne style" sparkling wine in 1971 and being a model of consistency since then. They won the first Amorim MCC challenge in 2002 and have won it twice since then.
BRUT [38 wines. 11 Non-Vintage, 27 Vintage]
WINNER BRUT VINTAGE: BOSCHENDAL GRANDE CUVEE 2009.
WINNER BRUT NON-VINTAGE: COLMANT.
Although this was a category that ranged from the ordinary to the sublime, there were far more of the latter. Some were scored down for having too little flavour or too much acid.
The majority showed yeastiness, good rich flavours on the nose and the palate and a persistent mousse.
The vintage wines followed a similar pattern with the older wines again showing particularly well.
It is interesting to note that to qualify as Methode Cap Classique the wines must be in the bottle on their fermentation lees for at least 9 months. At the end of 2013 a new qualification system with 2 tiers will be introduced. The first tier will require at least 12 months on the fermentation lees and can be made up of any grape varieties. The second tier will need to spend 24 months on the lees and need to consist of the 3 varieties used in Champagne, i.e. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
To sum up, it is clear that Methode Cap Classique has come a long way since the formation of the Association in 1992.
The overall quality was pleasingly high and there was proof that the better MCCs repay ageing, both on the lees and in the bottle.