Recently champagne became a whole lot more complicated. With new divisions in the discourse of bubbly we learned that sparkling wine, champagne and Méthode Cap Classique are similar, but not quite the same. To the connoisseur these are the differences which enhance the flavour or make your bubbly a uniquely South African treat.
Méthode Champenoise and Method Charmat
Firstly, champagne can only be made using grapes grown in Champagne, a north eastern province of France. Regardless of the method used to make it, anything else simply is not champagne. That said the method used is of utmost importance. Méthode Champenoise involves a second bout of fermentation in the actual bottle. Method Charmat is similar to that of the Méthode Champenoise, however it is more cost effective simply because the fermentation occurs in bulk, in a pressurised container.
Sparkling wine has carbon dioxide added to it later in the process. Connoisseurs may consider this product to be the furthest thing from champagne; however there are some great sparkling wine options on the market these days to rival MCCs.
Méthode Cap Classique
Méthode Cap Classique is the South African version of champagne. MCC is made using the original, bottle fermented process used by the French. This is about as close as the South African wine industry will get to making champagne, every step of the process aside from the grapes, is the real deal. The quality of our grapes coupled with the expertise of our wine makers is such that our MCCs rival some of the best French champagnes.
The MCC Process
Picked early in the season, MCC grapes are low in sugar. They are then pressed and fermented using the same process and ordinary wine. The resulting wine is poured into bottles, with sugar and yeast added. The mixture is capped, or sealed off in the bottle thus allowing the second fermentation to begin.
Over the next year and a half to three years the wine will be stored horizontally in a cellar and turned regularly. During this time the yeast and sugar ferment and further release carbon dioxide. Before the champagne is sold, the yeast in the bottom of the bottle is removed, more sugar is added and the bottle is corked and ready to be enjoyed.
The best serving temperature for champagne and MCCs alike is between 6 and 8 degrees centigrade. Anything much warmer is likely to prematurely lose its flavour and delicate bubbles.
The better the champagne, the more delicate and small the bubbles, so a long champagne flute is essential in order to minimise your loss of bubbles. To this end it is also of utmost importance to pour your champagne correctly; straight down into the centre of the glass.
Lastly, when opening the bottle there’s always the danger of shooting the cork out and potentially injuring your guests. Its best to release the cork slowly by loosening the wire cap without removing it entirely, this will help you to control the trajectory of the cork as well as preserve the bubbles.
All that’s left to do is shop for your favourite bubbly! Norman Goodfellows has a wide range of champagnes, MCCs and sparkling wines to suite every palate.