Méthode Cap Classique, South Africa's "Champagne"
Celebrating MCC Day
Spectacular South Africa celebrates Méthode Cap Classique on Thursday, 1 September this year. What is MCC? It’s South Africa’s version of Champagne made using the age-old traditional method. The first Méthode Cap Classique produced in South Africa was released over half a century ago in 1971, and it’s since become the fastest-growing wine category.
For over three decades, producers have not been able to use the term Champagne for anything other than the bottle-fermented wine from the Champagne region in France. Many South African wineries are creating fierce competition for their French counterparts despite the bottle being unable to bear the Champagne classification.
What is the difference between sparkling wine and MCC?
It’s complicated! In a nutshell, you can tell the difference by the size of the bubbles. The South African MCC has tiny, perfectly effervescent bubbles, whilst sparkling wine, such as tank-fermented Prosecco has bigger bubbles and a courser fizz. The MCC process is complex and lengthy.
MCC in the making
Once the winemaker has created the bottled base still wine, they add the liqueur de tirage, a blend of wine, yeast and sugar that begins the second fermentation process. The winemaker seals the bottles, meaning that the carbon dioxide resulting from fermentation process cannot escape, forming bubbles inside the bottle. During this process, sediment forms from the yeast and needs to be removed to achieve a clear sparkling wine.
Every day for the next few weeks, the winemaker will turn the bottle in a process known as remuage. The bottles are carefully placed in boards with bottle-shaped holes known as pupitres; every turn is intentional and forces the sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle. To remove the sediment, the maker places the bottle necks in an icy brine bath to freeze it; then, the bottle top is removed to allow the built-up pressure to shoot out the ice cube of sediment. This process is known as degorgement. Finally, the bottle is topped up with liqueur de expedition , to replace the volume of wine that was lost in degorgement, and sealed.
A top-quality Méthode Cap Classique is determined by its vintage, cultivar and sugar level. The cultivar refers to the grape type, whilst the vintage is the year the grapes are harvested from any of South Africa's meticulously maintained vineyards.
The South African MCC is exceptionally versatile, and pairs beautifully with dishes such as oysters, fish and chicken; the slightly sweeter versions pair well with mild curry flavours and honeyed desserts. Typically, an MCC is a pale straw colour and boasts peppy aromas of citrus flowers, refreshing hints of peach and apples and a teaser of freshly baked bread. The pleasant acidity causes a slight tartness making you want more than one sip. Our premium MCC is every bit as delightful as the finest Champagnes at a fraction of the cost.