Because the French are a proprietorial bunch when it comes to the use of the word “champagne,” South African producers using the classic French method of champagne-making decided to call their sparkling wines Méthode Cap Classique (MCC), to distinguish their wines from wines that are simply injected with carbon dioxide.
Although South African producers use the traditional method – which includes a second bottle fermentation – they are not restricted to the traditional grape varieties (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay) used in Champagne, which means that they can be a little more creative with their blends.
The Franschhoek Valley, where French Huguenots settled in the late 17th century, is home to roughly a quarter of the Cape’s MCC producers. The Franschoek Cap Classique Route groups together 18 MCC producers from Backsberg Estate Cellar on the Klapmuts-Simondium road to Morena on the Franschhoek Pass.
You won’t be able to tackle them all in one day, so make a weekend of it, and enlist the help of a driver to get you safely from one farm to the next. Here’s a taste of what you can expect…
Backsberg Wine Estate
Since this winery opened in 1916, it has been under the ownership of the Back family. Sydney Back, an award-winning winemaker whose name is familiar to any self-respecting South Africa wine connoisseur, was one of the first winemakers to plant Chardonnay in South Africa. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that his family’s farm produces a 100% Chardonnay MCC. What is surprising is that the winery also produces a kosher version of the MCC. The estate, which actually produces a range of kosher wines, is the only winery in South Africa that produces a kosher MCC.
While you’re there: If you are keen to find out a little more about how single varietals are used to create wine blends, book the interactive Blending Experience (R85/$8).
Tastings: Mon-Fri: 08:30 – 17:00, Sat: 09:30 – 16:30, Sun: 10:30 – 16:30.
Contact: www.backsberg.co.za / +27 21 874 9041.
Noble Hill, which is owned by American mother-and-son duo Kathleen and Kristopher Tillery, breaks the mold with its beautiful and creatively decorated tasting room. If you’re lucky, you will get to meet Kathleen, who will regale you with stories about how her lack of Afrikaans makes neighborhood meetings tricky and anecdotes about the shape of Marie Antoinette’s left breast. What you won’t get to do is taste the estate’s MCC. Because Noble Hill only produces 1260 bottles of its Blanc de Blancs, the only way you’ll get to taste it is if you buy a glass in the estate’s Latin-American-inspired restaurant, cosecha.
While you’re there: Order a picnic basket packed full of charcuterie, local cheeses, artisanal breads and a bottle of Noble Hill Blanc de Blancs.
Tastings: Mon- Sun: 10:00 – 17:00.
Contact: www.noblehill.com / +2721 874 3844
Allée Bleue Estate & Wines
When it comes to MCCs, this stately farm has two offerings: a classic blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and a flirty brut rosé (Pinotage, Chenin Blanc, and Pinot Noir). If it’s a sunny day, sit on one of the comfy couches on the shady terrace overlooking the vineyards and nearby mountains. The friendly staff pour the cap classique with a generous hand, so order the sumptuous cheese platter and enjoy a little impromptu cheese-and-wine pairing.
While you’re there: Plan your visit for a Friday so that you can take advantage of the Allée Bleue Herb Tour (R185/$17.35), which includes a three-course herb-inspired meal.
Tastings: Mon – Fri: 09:00 – 17:00, Sat: 10:00 – 17:00, Sun: 10:00 – 16:00.
Contact: www.alleebleue.com / +27 21 874 1021
A trip to La Motte is something of a cultural excursion. The estate, which has been owned by the wealthy Rupert family since the 1970s, boasts four historical buildings and an extensive art collection. While the La Motte Méthode Cap Classique (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir) puts this estate on the MCC route, you won’t be able to taste it in the impressive tasting room. Given that a bottle sells for R345 ($32.35), this is not entirely surprising. You can, however, order yourself a glass in the estate’s award-winning restaurant, Pierneef à La Motte.
While you’re there: Browse the baked goods in the farm shop, check out the collection of contemporary South African art in the museum, or take a conducted tour of the estate’s historic buildings.
Tastings: Mon – Sat: 09:00 – 17:00.
Contact: www.la-motte.com / +27 21 876 8000