Methode Cap Classique
In South Africa, a sparkling wine which is made in the traditional Champagne style is known as a Methode Cap Classique, or MCC. The most common wines to be used for this method are the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chenin Blanc, but it is also possible to use Chardonnay. For a darker, more original sparkling wine, Pinot Noir can be given the MCC treatment. In addition to the Methode Cap Classique, South African wine growers can also make wine using the Charmat method. The name Methode Cap Classique has been given to South African wines since the beginning of the 1990s.
The grapes used in the Methode Cap Classique design for sparkling wines are picked early, in order to ensure that the levels of sugar in the wine are low – sugar will be added during the MCC process. The juice of the grapes is quickly pressed in order to ensure that the white wine will have a clear colour, and not become yellow or gold. Once the grapes have been pressed, they are allowed to ferment in the same way as an ordinary still wine, producing alcohol and getting rid of carbon dioxide. This first stage creates a wine which will then be the basis for the sparkling wine.
This wine is often rather unpleasant, with a high acidity level and not much sugar. The wine is removed from the fermentation barrels, and blended together to produce the finished flavour of wine. Then, the Methode Cap Classique process can begin. The method of making sparkling wine in South Africa follows the Champagne method closely, so the next stage is to pour the wine into bottles. Once the wine is in the bottle, a small amount of yeast is added to the mix (the yeast can vary between producers), and this is followed by some sugar. The wine is then capped (hence the term Methode cap classique used in South Africa).
Once the yeast is sealed into the wine with the sugar, the second fermentation process begins. The bottle is placed horizontally in a wine cellar, usually for around one and a half years, although in some places this can extend to 3 years. As the yeast works on the sugar, released carbon dioxide is trapped inside the wine. The yeast at the bottom is known as the Lees, and this must eventually be removed. Bottles are placed upon racks which hold the neck of the bottle further down that the bottom. The bottles are turned regularly, and then raised slightly, so that after a fortnight the wine is upside-down, and the lees are lodged in the neck.
Once the yeast is in the neck, the wine-maker then has to remove the lees. This is done by taking off the original cap, and easing out the yeast. Sugar is put into the bottle, and a cork is placed into the bottle. This keeps the sparkle in the wine, while removing the yeast and preventing the wine from becoming too pressurised. The Methode Cap Classique is the most common type of sparkling wine production in South Africa.