Quite an unusual story enfolds when researching the facts behind the bottling of sparkling wines at Anthonij Rupert Wyne on L’Ormarins in the Groot Drakenstein Valley.
In 2007 a large number of bottles containing MCC, still on the secondary fermentation lees, were found in bins in old warehouses on the farm. This wine was made when the late Anthonij Rupert still resided on L’Ormarins. Although the wines were past their due dates, the bottles were kept as a unique “JR” was moulded into the glass on the front.
More research proved that these initials pointed to Jean Roi, one of the first French Huguenots who settled in Franschhoek. Roi was the first owner of L’Ormarins, named after Lourmarins, his hometown in France.
It was subsequently decided to re-use these particular bottles and produce small quantities of wine annually. Only in 2012 the volumes were increased when the MCC cellar was completed and the new plantings of Pinot noir and Chardonnay had sufficiently matured to create quality bubbles. The next progressive development was the appointment of Zanie Viljoen, the MCC winemaker.
Grapes for wines produced according to the MCC method are sourced from Altima in the Elandskloof, Elgin-, Darling- and Robertson regions.
The question arises: What exactly is the Méthode Cap Classique? According to this method, sparkling wines are bottle-fermented. In France the Méthode Champenoise is used to make the traditional French champagne. (“Champagne” was patented by the French, therefore we use the term “sparkling wines”). Noteworthy is the fact that a second fermentation takes place in the wine in the bottle by adding yeast and sugar.
After the second fermentation and bottle-aging on the lees (yeast cells), MCC bottles undergo a process of riddling. This means the bottles are placed down at an angle, turned frequently, after which all the lees ends in the necks of the bottles.
The final bottling process is disgorgement. This is when the lees is expelled from the bottle. Modern automated disgorgement is effected by means of flash freezing a small amount of liquid in the neck and subsequently opening the bottle to remove the plug of ice containing the lees.
Dosage is the next step before corking takes place. A small quantity of wine and sugar is added to compensate for the volume of wine lost during disgorgement as well as to adjust the flavour. Up to two minutes can elapse between disgorgement and the insertion of the cork. This may cause problems since carbon dioxide in the wine starts escaping while oxygen enters the bottle. The smallest amount of oxygen in the bottle when the cork is put in, may lead to oxidation, with the resultant negative effect on the quality as well as the taste of the wine.
Anthonij Rupert Wyne started using the jetting technique to prevent oxidation, especially since this method proved to be highly successful in some of the leading French Champagne houses.
After disgorgement and dosage a jetting machine adds a small drop of highly pressurized, sulphur dioxide-enriched water to the wine. The moment it touches the surface of the wine, the surface tension is disturbed. Foam rises and pushes the air out of the neck. The foam could actually be compared to a piston, since it displaces air from the top of the bottle. While the foam is still in the neck, the cork is inserted. This ensures that very little or no air remains in the bottle.
Another advantage of this technique is that it ensures greater consistency of taste. Minor differences in character may be observed between bottles of sparkling wines. This can be ascribed to the minor oxidation that occurs if oxygen enters the bottle while it is being bottled and corked.
Most wine drinkers are quite prepared to accept these variations in flavour in still wines. In the case of sparkling wines however, buyers expect consistency. It is therefore of prime importance to eliminate slight differences in taste caused by oxidation when producing sparkling wines.
We trust that all this information about MCC will enthuse and inspire you during the forthcoming festive occasions. MCC could definitely add sparkle to your days!