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CAP CLASSIQUE

Notching up a half century is a special milestone, whether as an individual or an organisation. 2021 is a celebratory one for fans of South Africa’s own sparkling wine.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Cap Classique is South Africa’s answer to Champagne. It’s effervescent, bubbly and full of fizz – and 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the first bottling of the traditional style sparkling wine.

Most wine lovers the world over know that Champagne comes from a specific geographic region in the north of France – but that there are many other wine producing countries which make it the same way. Méthode Champenoise involves a second fermentation in bottle which results in all those fantastic bubbles being trapped inside the wine.

South Africa has used this technique of making bottle fermented sparkling wine since 1971, with Stellenbosch’s Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel being the first commercially released. Around 30 years ago the winemakers taking this style of wine seriously decided to combine forces and set some ground rules – so the Cap Classique Producers Association was formed.

“The Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA) was established in 1992 by a group of like-minded producers who share a passion for bottle-fermented sparkling wines, made according to the traditional method (Méthode Champenoise),” the organisation’s website states. “Their vision is to promote South Africa’s premium Méthode Cap Classique wines, as well as the common interests of the producers.”

One of the first things this body did was to come up with a term which allowed the market or consumers to appreciate that this was a special wine, with care and consideration taken in its making – and that it was on par with Champagne in terms of production. So it was that in 1992 the term Méthode Cap Classique – or MCC – was introduced to differentiate the South African bubbly made the traditional (Champagne) way from other bubblies. Other wines which are essentially gassed with carbon dioxide for the fizzy bubbles, fall under the catch-all “sparkling wine” terminology.

All well and good: the campaign was a success with consumers, producers, wine writers and critics happily talking and writing about Méthode Cap Classique or MCC for short. Everyone happily spoke about MCC. Restaurant wine lists even had a separate MCC section. (Well, the smarter ones anyway.) But in 2020 there was a bit of navel gazing and reflection. In November a press release from the Cap Classique Producer’s Association went out stating that there had been a bit of shake up ahead of the 50th anniversary. A repositioning specifically of the body’s marketing objectives “to highlight the importance of time in the making of fine South African bubbly”. A minimum of 12 months undergoing the secondary fermentation was mooted. However, the main thrust was a move away from MCC. It was a subtle but important tweak …

“This message is for all of you who love and follow and drink Cap Classique,” the media release on wine.co.za stated. “Part of our drive going forward, is to refrain using the acronym, MCC. We know that it is an easy way out, but we feel that the category can benefit hugely by referring to the product as Cap Classique.”

That might seem like a minor semantic change but think about the modern, digitally-driven and technological world we live in. The first thing any savvy person does when not clear on what an acronym stands for is to Google it! Do it and the tsunami of results “which match your query” will turn up the fact that MCC also stands for the Marylebone Cricket Club, Minecraft Championships, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Motor Control Centre, Mennonite Central Committee, Master Certified Coach, MPLab Code Configurator, MCC labels, MCC Security … The list goes on and on!The point the association wanted to make is that by talking and writing about Cap Classique, rather than MCC, it strengthens and reinforces the brand’s South African identity – and quality. “By doing it this way we will develop the behaviour and people will catch on to it, thus strengthening brand Cap Classique, uniquely South African.”
Since Cap Classique is the fastest growing segment of the local wine category it makes sense that it should be given as much recognition and prominence as possible. By way of example, the 1993 Platter Guide lists just 20 MCCs. The current Guide has had to split the massive category into Méthode Ancestrale, rosé, white – dry and white – off-dry/semi-sweet. The main chunk of the hundreds of wines is obviously in the white – dry segment, and that lists around 250-plus individual wines!So Cap Classique has been around for 50 years, but it’s certainly not old or lacking in verve and vigour. If anything, it’s one of the most dynamic and dare we say – bubbly? – segments of South African wine.

CAP CLASSIQUE PRODUCERS MEMBERS
Allee Bleue EstateAlvi’s DriftAmbeloui

Anthonij Rupert Wines

Aristea Wines

Asara Wine Estate

Avondale

Babylonstoren

Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate

Black Elephant Vintners

Bon Courage Estate

Boschendal Estate

Bosman Family Vineyards

Cavalli Wines

Charles Fox Cap Classique Wine Estate

Colmant Cap Classique

Dainty Bess

Darling Cellars

De Grendel Wines

De Wet Cellar

Delaire Graff Estate

Dieu Donne Vineyards

Domaine des Dieux

Durbanville Hills Cellar

Genevieve MCC

Graham Beck

Groot Phesantekraal

Groote Post Vineyards

Haute Cabrière

Hazendal

Hidden Valley Wines

House of BNG

IBN Negociants cc

Idun Wine

Jordan Wine Estate

Ken Forrester Wines

Klein Constantia Estate

Klein Roosboom

Kleine Zalze Wines

Koelenhof Wine Cellar

KWV

La Bri

Lateganskop Wine Cellar

Le Lude MCC

Lomond Wine Estate

Lords Winery

Louisvale

Lourensford Wine Estate

MK Vintners

Mooiplaas Estate

Morena

Moreson

Mulderbosch Vineyards

Namaqua Wines

Newstead Wines

Nitida

Nuy Wine Cellar

Paul René MCC

Perdeberg Wines

Piekenierskloof Wine Company

Pieter Ferreira Wines

Pongracz

Rickety Bridge Winery

Saltaré

Silverthorn Wines

Simonsig Wine Estate

Siwela Wines

Spier Wine Farm

Steenberg Vineyards

Stellenbosch Hills Wines

Stellenrust Wine Estate

Stony Brook

Tanzanite Wines

Thelema Mountain Vineyards

Truman and Orange

Twee Jonge Gezellen (Krone Cap Classique)

Van Loveren

Villiera Wines

Waterford Wine Estate

Waverley Hills Organic Wines

Weltevrede Wine Estate

Wildehurst Wines

Wildekrans Wine Estate

Windfall Wine Estate

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