What is MCC Wine?
Méthode Cap Classique, better known as MCC, is the South African version of champagne. In this article, you’ll find out exactly what MCC wine is, and how is it different from champagne and sparkling wine.
What is the difference between MCC and champagne?
Made using the same traditional French method, known as methode champenoise, the only difference between the South African bubbly and the famous French alternative is that Champagne grapes must be grown in the Champagne region of France, while South African MCCs use local grapes, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
This bubbly wine first appeared in South Africa less than 50 years ago;today, it is one of the fastest-growing wine categories in the country. The first Méthode Cap Classique was released in 1971 and was sold for R3 a bottle, establishing itself as the most expensive local wine on the market!
South African MCC is a full sensory experience, and it is known to be one of the most versatile wines as it can be enjoyed with breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is known to pair well with dishes such as oysters, canapés, cheeses, chicken and fish, and sweeter MCCs can be paired with light curries and desserts.
How is MCC made?
To make MCC, the winemaker must first create a base wine. This is then bottled, and ‘liqueur de tirage’ is added. Liqueur de tirage is a mixture of wine, yeast and sugar, a combination that initiates the second fermentation process. During this second process, carbon dioxide (CO2) cannot escape(as it does in still wine), but forms bubbles that are captured inside the bottle.
Once this process has taken place, a sediment is formed which needs to be removed to ensure a clear, sparkling wine. To achieve this, a process called remuage begins, which involves the bottles being turned every day for a few weeks. These bottles are stored in pupitres – boards with specially-shaped holes. Each turn plays an important role, tilting the bottle more and more onto its head, forcing all the sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle.
To remove this sediment, the necks of the bottles are placed in a very cold brine bath in order to freeze it. The bottle top is then removed, allowing the pressure to shoot out an ice cube of sediment. This process is referred to as degorgement. Finally, liqueur de tirage is added for the second time to top up the bottle.
What is the difference between MCC and sparkling wine?
What sets South African MCC apart from the majority of sparkling wines in South Africa is that sparkling wines are either tank-fermented or injected with carbon dioxide—these wines are not made using the traditional French method.
You can spot the difference between the two if you look closely at their bubbles; an MCC will have tiny bubbles with refined effervescence while sparkling wine has a larger, coarser fizz. Watch out for non-MCC bottle-fermented wines, as they do not go through the same lengthy process as MCC wines but can still claim to be bottle fermented, which can be very confusing.
What makes a good MCC?
The main criteria used to determine a top-quality MCC are the vintage, the cultivar and the sugar level. The vintage refers to the year the grapes are harvested and the cultivar is the name given to the type of grapes used. Additionally, high-calibre MCCs in South Africa are made from grapes sourced from meticulously maintained vineyards.
The MCC at Quoin Rock is made using a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – sourced from several different terroirs such as our Elim Farm and Stellenbosch based Quoin Rock Wine Estate. These unique locations give the MCC a distinctive flavour. The Elim grapes provide a crisp acidity and freshness, while the Stellenbosch fraction adds length and body with fruit to the wine. The wine also spends a lengthy 54 months on the second fermentation lees in the bottle, allowing the beautiful brioche aromas to develop.
On top of the above, a combination of careful planning and great care is put into creating Quoin Rock’s MCC. Each block of grapes in their vineyard is treated separately throughout the entire fermentation and ageing process, which allows winemakers to monitor each component and make subtle changes where necessary. During harvest season, the team makes sure to pick early in the day and at cool temperatures to preserve the freshness and flavour of the wine.
Once picked, the base wine is fermented in old French Oak barrels to ensure length and body, and stainless steel tanks provide a freshness to the wine that helps to achieve its exceptional flavour.
The Quoin Rock Méthode Cap Classique is an excellent bubbly to pair with a meal on a warm summer’s day. With tiny, persistently rising bubbles, it is an elegant drink that can be served with salmon tartare, oysters and sushi. Or, perhaps, if the occasion demands, chilled, popped and poured with laughter and good cheer!
Currently, Quoin Rock’s Black Series MCC is available to purchase. A delicate and fine wine with hints of green apple, honey-oats, biscuit and lime, its profound flavour is credited to winemaker Schalk Opperman’s process. Made with hand-picked grapes, whole-bunch pressed and stored in second-fill French Oak barrels, this wine was bottle-aged on the lees for 52 months, then disgorged and given a further six months bottle maturation before being released.
A particularly special offering, is our newly released, limited edition, 2009 Quoin Rock MCC Blanc de Blanc. Created using only the best parts of our Elim farm’s Chardonnay blocks, the grapes for this 2009 vintage were whole-bunch pressed and stored in French Oak barrels for seven months. Following the strict guidelines of producing a Méthode Cap Classique, the wine was allowed to mature on the lees for an incredible 103 months before it was disgorged, giving this limited edition MCC a depth and complexity that makes it well worth the wait.