Is MCC and Champagne the same thing? This is the question I get asked everyday. Many people use "Champagne" for every sparkling wine, but is this the case? It is important to know and that the term “Champagne” is reserved for sparkling wines that come from the region of Champagne in France.
In 1992, in response to the ban to use the term “Champagne” and “Champenoise” for any sparkling wine, South Africa adopted the term “Medothe Cap Classigue” (MCC) for sparkling wines made in a similar way as Champagne.
Cap Classique was made a reality in 1971 by Frans Malan when he visited the Champagne region in France and had the vision to establishment a Champagne style wine in South Africa. As you will know, wine in South Africa mostly comes from the Cape Winelands including Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, etc. The first Cap Classique was released 2 years later in 1973 by Simonsig and Frans Malan called it Kaapse Vonkel (meaning Cape sparkle), with the hope that it would become the generic name for all South African Cap Classiques.
Cape Classique (MCC) is made mostly using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
Nowadays, there are a lot of winemakers that produce Cap Classiques which are consumed by most of the South African population as well as exported abroad.
Just like French Champagne, MCC is made using a method called champenoise, which basically means the second fermentation takes place inside the bottle. Here are the step followed when making MCC:
The character of a wine starts with grapes from a well-tended vineyard. Good wine comes from good quality grapes. Cap Classique therefore begins in the vineyards and is differentiated in the cellar.
As with Champagne, Cap Classiques’ second fermentation takes place in the wine bottle. Once the first fermentation is complete, the Cellar Master adds a bit of fresh yeast and a few grams of sugar to every single bottle before bottling with a ‘crown cork’ (basically, a bottle cap which can be easily removed). The bottle then rests to allow the second fermentation to happen. This combination creates a bit of extra alcohol and carbon dioxide. That is why when you are pouring a Cap Classique, you get the “mousse”. A mousse is created when the wine strikes the bottom of the glass and creates a turbulence that traps countless air bubbles.
After the fermentation in the bottle, the yeast is left in the bottle for a minimum of 15 months so that the unique flavour of the yeast evolves the character of the wine for richness, and a slightly buttery taste as well as the warm ‘golden’ hue. The longer the yeast stays in the bottle the better, more classic the taste. For the French, maturation with yeast has to be a minimum of 3 years to classify as the more exclusive ‘vintage’ Champagne.
The next step is the riddling stage where the bottles are placed in special racks at a 45° angle and turned every day to encourage the dead yeast cells and other sediment to move down towards the neck of the bottle. De-gorging is the act of removing the yeast from the bottle. The bottles are gently shaken while upside down, which moves the yeast behind the cork. Once upside down, the bottle neck is then frozen in a cold liquid ‘bath’ and the crown cork is removed. With the great pressure that has built up in the bottle, the frozen yeast is forced out and only pure Cap Classique remains.
With the yeast gone, the bottle is no longer full. Each bottle receives a dosage – or a ‘top up’ – traditionally with a sweet, late-harvest wine to return a bit of fruity sweetness to the otherwise bone try Methode Cap Classique. Depending on the sweetness of the dosage, the MCC is classified as Brut (dry), Brut Naturale (very dry) or Nectar (sweetish).
Here are the different tuypes of MCCs you will find in retail:
As mentioned earlier, MCC is consumed mostly by South Africa public, therefore can easily find MCC in most supermarkets, bottle stores, bars and restaurants. MCC is also exported to Europe and other continents. A 2020 report says that 73% of MCC is sold in South Africa and the rest is exported to the UK, USA, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, etc.
Is is very common to find MCC is most 4 and 5 star hotels, resorts, game lodges as well as most in fine dining restaurants.
MCC Prices in Supermarkets
Champagne Prices in SA Supermarkets
Billecart Salmon Brut Rose - R1350
Armand De Brignac Rose - R10 000
Dom Perignon P2 - R6 000
*Please note that these are estimates and prices can differ from one shop to the other.
It is difficult to say which one is the best. It is a matter of taste and personal preference. Here is a list of some that are regarded the best MCC producers (in no particular order):
There are many more really good MCC producers in South Africa.
When it comes to food and wine pairing, it is very important to find a fine balance. As they are oftern fruitier than French Champagne, most Cap Classiques pair excellently with chicken and pork dishes that play with sweet and sour flavours, as well as sea food.
Pair your brut with prawn salad, kingklip ceviche, oysters. Pair the brut rosé with mussels, tuna and berry sorbet. The nectar goes well with crispy fried ginger pork, sticky marmalade duck, scullops in a ginger and orange butter.
Are you a wine drinker? Ever tried the MCC? Tells us more.