At the 2013 Amorim Tsogo Sun Cap Classique Challenge, De Wetshof Estate MCC Brut 2008, was awarded a “Highly Recommended – Gold Medal”.
It’s no surprise that an award winning MCC’s would surface at some stage from arguably South Africa’s most site / terroir driven and specialist Chardonnay grower, it’s all in the dirt, couple with years of experience crafting some of the most age worthy Chardonnay in the Cape.
Below is an exclusive interview with the De Wet family, understanding their house style, winemaking philosophy, sourcing of the grapes for that specific MCC, and what makes their offering a unique and special bubbly, worth seeking out today, just in time for the festive season celebrations.
Tell our readers a little more about your winery and how long you have been making wine and why your chosen location to make wine and in particular MCC, what is special about your site?
With our emphasis being on Chardonnay – and to a lesser extent Pinot Noir – the production of an MCC at De Wetshof was always a brooding possibility. The Robertson Wine Valley has the highest limestone content of any South African wine region which makes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir really come to the fore in the region. So, with quality grapes and the De Wet family’s thirst for MCC and Champagne, it was only a matter of time before we had a base wine made. When the quality of the base wine was discovered, it was all systems go and with Peter de Wet at the helm we added MCC to our range.
Explain us your viticultural approach and philosophy, as we all know, it’s all starts in the dirt to make very good to great wines?
We believe that each sight has a special character and fingerprint which it gives to the end product. Even in vintage differences the wine will still have an identity that is recognisable.
On De Wetshof we identify vineyards that give us all the aspects we are looking for in the end product and use those vineyards every year giving our MCC.
Viticulturist are very often the unsung heroes of the South African wine industry and we all know, demanding style such as MCC, needs optimum grape quality, tell us more about your viticulturist?
Our viticulturists have been working for De Wetshof for more than 20 years so they know the vineyards and their characteristics well. They play a big part in deciding which vineyards go to which wines.
MCC’s will never be Champagne, however the quality are of a very high standards and represents some of the very best value bottle sparkling wine in the world, tell us more about the climate and soil your grapes come from?
All our MCC’s are made on the Estate, from grapes grown on the Estate. The Robertson Valley is characterised by cold winters and sunny summers, with an average annual rainfall of 350 - 400mm. In summer a fresh southerly breeze from the Cape Agulhas coast has a cooling effect on the vineyards, allowing the grapes to ripen evenly and in perfect balance. Nights are chilly and during summer months a mist often shrouds the vineyards until late morning.
The dry climate and the bracing breeze keep pests to a minimum, resulting in sparse spraying programmes. Computerised irrigation systems linked to weather station data and the monitoring of soil moisture-content ensures the vines are given the correct amount of water needed to produce grapes of optimum ripeness and developed flavours. Rocky mountain gravel soil with an abundance of free limestone and complemented with a slight clay component assisting in the water hold capacity of the soil. The high pH, of the De Wetshof soils ensures ideal vineyard conditions for the growing of Chardonnay, allowing true varietal expression.
Do you have any preferences over site specific, i.e. Estate / region/district/ward wine of origin over Western Cape / Coastal Region blends, if so give us more details?
De Wetshof places a premium on site specific production, and therefore all the wines in our portfolio are made from grapes grown on our Estate and on vineyard sites identified with each product in mind. This is the only way to give your wine a definite fingerprint and identity, as well as a personality with which the consumer can relate. You cannot create wines with personality if you do not know where the body parts are coming from. Simple as that.
How long you have been making MCC?
Since 2001. Our first commercial vintage was 2007.
How many styles of MCC’s you produce under your brand?
Two styles – MCC Cuvee Brut and MCC Pinot Noir Brut
Tell us more about your winning MCC and its winemaking process as well as the percentage blends if any making the final wine?
The grapes are picked in the coolness of morning, with the emphasis on capturing the natural complexities of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes during the early stages of ripening so as to produce a base wine of high natural acidity. Following the classical production process for the making of great sparkling wine, whole bunch pressing of the grapes was done for complexity.The juice allowed to settle for 12 hours before fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks at a cool temperature of 11°C. After 21 days’ fermentation, the wine was racked from the gross lees and left partly in tank and barrels on the fine lees for twelve months to mature. After bottling, the wine was allowed to go into the process of a second fermentation. It was left in the bottle for 60 months for added character and complexity before being disgorged and sealed with cork.
This Méthode Cap Classique has a fine, persistent bubble and a lively rich mousse. On the nose it expresses brioche, green apple and flowers, while the palate is alive with crisp flavours of citrus and fresh apple complemented by a slight hint of baked biscuits. This wine typifies a good Méthode Cap Classique’s ability to offer wines that are fresh, lively yet complex and elegant.
What is your view on Reserve wine added prior to dosage, what would be your average percentage, if any use in your house style?
We release our MCC only after five years and as this is then more Reserve style, we use wine from the same vintage as dosage.
What MCC style are your aiming for?
Full, rich and complex.
With the new emerging market locally preferring wines with higher residual sugar, what is your philosophy on dosage and where do you draw the line?
We are led by what the vineyard gives us, so there is little interference from our side. The wine must speak for itself with its own voice and it is not our job to tell the wine what to say. A little bit of sugar added, but only to create balance and not to change the wine’s identity.
What are the source / origin of the grape(s) used in the winning wine?
De Wetshof Estate
Stylistically, where do you intend taking the wine in the next 5 to 10 years?
Using fruit from the same vineyards we will see added complexity as the vines age.
How many approximately bottles do you produce per each style?
The UK currently. We focuss mainly on the South African market at the momemnt.
Top local on trade customers supporting the wines or where can your MCC be found to be purchased and enjoy?
Cafe Balducci’s, Delaire, Shimmys, Browns, 9th Avenue Bistro.
Your favorite food pairings or recommendation to be enjoyed with your winning MCC?
Do you have a special cellar door deal for readers of MCWJ to purchase your MCC over the holiday period?
No, due to limited quantity available.
What is the average selling of your MCC’s, cellar door / retail?