At the 2013 Amorim Tsogo Sun Cap Classique Challenge, Laborie Blanc de Blancs MCC Brut 2009 and Laborie Brut 2010, was awarded a “Highly Recommended – Gold Medal”.
Laborie is a handful of Paarl wineries that get their MCC, consistently right, exceptionally well price too, perfect for any celebrations.
Below is an exclusive interview with Kobus van der Merwe, Chief Winemaker and Marco Ventrella, Head Viticulturist and one of South Africa’s best, understanding Laborie house style, winemaking philosophy, sourcing of the grapes for that specific MCC, and what makes their sparkling wine one of the best of 2013.
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?
Our wine farm has a long and noble heritage, having first produced a grape harvest in the 1690’s when Isaac Taillefert made wine described as; “The best in the colony, similar to our small wines of Champagne” by the French Traveller, Francois Legaut.
Situated on the slopes of the Paarl Mountain the vista extends across the valley to the Drakenstein Mountains, reason alone to plant grapes at this location.
As the Laborie farm’s heritage is from France, with the French settlers responsible for the birth of Laborie, sparkling wine had to be made on Laborie to express this heritage. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Champagne clones thrive in this terroir, and produce sparkling wines with lots of finesse, balance and freshness.
Marco, 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?
My approach is one of attempting to understand the processes in the vine and their interaction with the terroir. Its the greatest game there is for me. I liken it to playing 7 games of chess on 7 boards in tandem where every move affects every board but only 3 are visible. Action, reaction. Cause and effect. Sometimes doing nothing at all is the only winning move. Ultimately its about trying to grow wine rather than fruit. Aspiring to beauty and complexity in this time and space capsule we call a bottle of wine.
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?
MCC is about capturing the sunshine of South Africa in an elegant bubble. We have various different soils and terroirs. Each brings nuances and contributes to complexity. We experience the soils of the Cape have to offer; from the granite based gravel in Paarl that provides primary red berry fruit in the Pinot Noir’s and citrus notes in the Chardonnay, to soils in the Swartland that offer creamy texture and brightness in the Chardonnay.
Elgin and Walker Bay are all about mineral and acid lines with Chardonnay expressing lemons and limes and Pinot Noir offering frambois forest floor.
MCC is about knife edge balancing in the vineyards. Too much bunch exposure and its phenolic, too little it’s insipid. Elgin needs more exposure, Paarl needs less.
2 days too early the base wine is lean, 2 days too late and its flabby and blousy. We’ve got to read each block during each vintage. Sometimes we get it right. Then we celebrate with a bottle or 2 of Bubbly!
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, Marco tell us more about you?
I grew up far from vineyards and followed my parents into the hospitality trade where I managed night clubs at first. I spent 10 years in restaurants before my passion for wine would tolerate no more procrastination. I studied at Elsenberg, initially as a wine maker, but changed to viticulture as I felt this was where the real mystery was.
After 10 years I feel like I know less for certain than when I started, and understand a little more. I find the vine to be the most extraordinary plant on the planet.
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?
It all depends on the style we aim for. The different grapes from the different terroirs produce different components, and with this we build the style we want to achieve. But we have our preferences on certain grapes and sites to give the backbone of the blend.
How long you have been making MCC?
How many styles of MCC’s you produce under your brand?
Brut, Blanc de Blancs and Rose.
Tell us more about your winning MCC and it’s winemaking process as well as the percentage blends if any making the final wine?
The Laborie Blanc de Blanc 2009 consists of a 100% Chardonnay grapes, and were harvested by hand in the cool of the morning and whole bunch pressed. Only the cuvee juice were used for the final blend. Selected yeast was used for primary fermentation followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine was bottled and underwent second fermentation under a stable 15°C. This was followed by bottle maturation of about 36 months, when it was disgorged, corked and labelled. This is a typical blanc de blanc that shows flavours of citrus and green apple, freshness with layers of creamy and biscuit notes on the palate.
The Laborie Brut 2010 is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. This was also whole bunch pressed with only the cuvee juice used for the final blend. A 30% portion of the Chardonnay was put through malolactic fermentation as the remainder retains freshness to the wine. The wine was blended and bottled where second fermentation occurred. Bottle maturation took 24 months, where after it was disgorged, corked and labelled. This Brut is elegant and fine in style that shows berry flavours with a subtle yeastiness and brioche.
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 do not add reserve wine as of our stylistic preference. We want to retain the freshness and elegance.
What MCC style are your aiming for?
We aim for a refined, clean style but showing complexity with lots of freshness and elegance.
11 - 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?
For us it’s all about the balance on the palate and according to this we will add dosage. A wine that is perfectly balanced is a wine that will be enjoyed by the majority of sparkling wine consumers.
What are the source / origin of the grape(s) used in the winning wine?
The majority of the grapes are from Paarl with other components coming from Stellenbosch, Walker Bay and Robertson.
How many bottles do you produce per each style?
2009 Blanc de Blanc 48,000 bottles.
2010 Brut 58,000 bottles.
2010 Blanc de Blanc 92,000 bottles.
2010 Brut 58,000 bottles.
2010 Blanc de Blanc 92,000 bottles.
Our main sales are seen through the South African markets however we do export to Europe, West and East Africa as well as Latin America and China.
Top local on trade customers supporting the wines or where can your MCC be found to be purchased and enjoy?
The MCC can be purchased at most Makro Liquor stores.
Your favourite food pairings or recommendation to be enjoyed with your winning MCC?
Salmon with cream cheese, Sushi and Seafood Paella.
Do you have a special cellar door deal for readers of MCWJ to purchase your MCC over the holiday period?
Receive a Laborie 2 tier Champagne cooler / bag with Laborie logo with the purchase of any 2 box branded Laborie MCC from the Cellar Door (While stocks last) starting 1 December 2013
What is the average selling of your MCC’s, cellar door / retail?
Laborie Brut costs R80, and the Blanc de Blancs costs R98.