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© Cape Times Friday 30th October 2015 I’ve had a very bubbly last few weeks.The Amorim MCC Challenge results came out...

Celebrating bubbles

© Cape Times Friday 30th October 2015

I’ve had a very bubbly last few weeks.The Amorim MCC Challenge results came out (congrats to all winners), the Nederburg Auction served one of my favourite fizzes, Scintilla, non-stop to very thirsty guests, Avondale’s Armilla won a major international award and two icons of the SA world of bubbles celebrated Silver Jubilees with two great events. For me – any excuse to celebrate with bubbly is a good excuse, but there’s no denying that these two events were slightly better than most.

First up was the celebration of Pieter Ferreira’s 25th vintage at Graham Beck Wines.  It’s hard to imagine the world of Cap Classique without thinking of Pieter and his passion for his wines, his cheeky sense of humour, his super-cool footwear and his genuine joie de vivre. When he first started out at Graham Beck Wines in 1990, Robertson was neither well-known for Chardonnay, nor MCC and there can be little doubt that Pieter’s efforts and achievements have helped put both on the map. MCC is such an important and growing category in SA and this is a lot to do with his enthusiastic chairmanship of the MCC association, which all makers of MCC are well-advised to join, offering guidance, advice and continually-driving standards upwards.

Graham Beck Wines is littered with accolades and testimonials of the great and the good around the world with the brand being chosen by royalty, presidents, film stars and more. They do three different tiers of wines, very much like most of the top Champagne houses in France, but at the recent celebration lunch they opened something which makes me think they should create a fourth tier of wine as well. My favourite wine from their stable has always been the Blanc de Blanc and for their celebrations, Pieter opened a 1992 which he had recently-disgorged. It reminded me of some of the finest P2 Dom Perignons which I was lucky enough to try earlier on this year – rich, savoury, salty, creamy – a wine to dream of over and over again. Graham Beck RD anyone? I’m right there.

Also celebrating 25 years in the business this year is an equally well-loved name – Pongrácz. Pongrácz winemaker, Elunda Basson, has a while to go to equal Pieter’s record but she is nevertheless one of the longest-serving winemakers for the brand. Created 25 years ago in honour of Desiderius Pongrácz, a Hungarian viticulturist responsible for many of the vineyard practices still used today. ‘Pongie’ as he was known, was a larger-than life character and the celebratory party was all about being bold, over-the-top and exciting, matching the three wines in the Pongrácz range to different tapas nibbles. The prestige Desiderius with its very distinctive bottle was launched in 2002 (the 2003 won Museum Class in this year’s MCC Challenge) and in 2009 the rosé Pongrácz was born.  The wine is now sold in 49 countries around the world with Africa being the fastest-growing region, making for a proudly South African story all round.

With new MCC’s being launched almost on a weekly basis, it can be easy to forget such stalwarts as Pongrácz and Graham Beck, but I think the importance of having a brand and a winemaker solely-dedicated to crafting fine MCC cannot be overstated. People tend to think that if they can make wine, they can make bubbles, but this really isn’t the case – sure you can have the odd flash in the pan, but to consistently top the awards lists around the world takes serious knowledge, concentration and effort. Staying put and getting really good seems to be the recipe for success in the world of MCC so happy anniversary Pieter and Pongie – may you continue to rock and rule the roost for many more years to come.

© Cape Times Friday 31st December 2010 One of the best things about the festive season is that is...

In search of Festive Fizz

Genevieve MCC© Cape Times Friday 31st December 2010
One of the best things about the festive season is that is suddenly becomes okay to drink champagne at any and every opportunity. Which is perfect for people like me – given half a chance and a bigger bank balance, I would do that anyway! However, since neither of those two conditions are prevailing at the moment, I’ll just take the chances I can and make the most of the next forty-eight hours!

South Africa makes some fantastic sparkling wines - legally, we cannot call our fizzes ‘Champagne’ as that only refers to wines from that region of France. The first MCC, or Methode Cap Classique which is SA’s name for it, was made by Frans Malan at Simonsig more than thirty years ago and Kaapse Vonkel has remained at the top of any respectable fizz list to this day. Other well-known bubbly makers include Jeff Grier at Villiera, who is celebrating his second Platter Five Star award for the delicious 2005 Monro Brut, the flamboyant Archim von Arnim at Haute Cabrière, perennial favourite Pongracz from Distell and the stellar range from Graham Beck. But worth seeking out are some of the smaller producers and lesser-known names who are making fizz fit for a king. Here are a few of my favourites.

Robertson is a perfect hotbed of fabulous fizz – apart from Graham Beck it is also home to producers such as Bon Courage have won countless awards both locally and overseas for their Jacques Bruere range. Three new entrants into the world of fizz have all launched in the last few months – and all the farms are within a few hundred metres of each other, situated on the wonderful limestone soils which make for the best champagne grapes. Van Loveren launched their Christina van Loveren MCC (R75 from the farm) at their 30th birthday party earlier on this year and, following swiftly on their heels, neighbours Viljoensdrift produced their Villion MCC (R80 from the farm), a delicate and creamy fizz made from Chardonnay. The final wine in the trio comes from De Wetshof where winemaking son, Peter, has been making Cap Classique since he was fourteen. This is the first vintage he has thought good enough to bottle under his family name and is a complex affair with persistent bubbles and a crisp, toasty finish. Tiny quantities and should retail for about R160.

Leaving Robertson and heading south to Botrivier, you can find Melissa Nelsen’s Genevieve 2008. Melissa is passionate about MCC and made this with a little help from the Gower family. It’s a Blanc de Blanc with plenty of fresh citrussy fruit and a biscuit/brioche finish. Find it at boutique wine shops for around R180. And whilst you’re in the neighbourhood, try the Ross Gower Pinot Noir Brut 2007 (R150 from the farm) as well. Winner of the best rose at the 2009 Cap Classique Challenge, it is bone-dry, zesty and elegant with hints of strawberries and cream cheese. Delicious.

My final foray into great fizz takes me to Franschhoek where you can try the other Platter Five Star fizz at Topiary. This is an astonishing wine – it’s labelled ’Brut’ meaning dry, but has almost three times the amount of sugar which would be allowed in a dry still wine. That it tastes zesty, lively and refreshing is entirely due to the very punchy acidity which balances out the sweetness and turns it into a delicious, rounded mouthfeel and a great lengthy finish. A really good wine at a ridiculously cheap price – R85 from the farm.

Whichever fizz you choose to use in your celebrations, I hope you enjoy it. Have a great New Year – remember to call Goodfellas to get you home safely at the end of your evening (www.gfellas.co.za) -and happy drinking.