In anticipation of the The Johannesburg Cap Classique and Champagne Festival on Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14 at The Polo Club at Inanda, we spoke to Graham Beck cellar master Pieter Ferreira, the man nicknamed Mr Bubbles.
Why is bubbly your passion?
They say I have bubbles in my blood! I have been very fortunate to specialise in bubbly from day one in my winemaking career. The intrinsic values that go into the process of making bubbly are quite mesmerising. Bubbles do intrigue and absorb you. When you drink, eat and sleep it … it is your passion.
Considering that bubbly first appeared in South Africa less than 50 years ago, it is impressive that some of SA’s most widely consumed wine brands today are Méthode Cap Classique (MCC). Why has there been this huge surge in popularity?
The beauty of MCC is that it is uniquely South African. It will forever remain the better alternative for those who don’t want to do champagne. There is a great amount of respect for champagne and with our great weather and sunshine we will always be great value. The price-point–quality-ratio is a huge advantage for the consumer.
I still believe it is the most underrated category in the wine world. Bubbly or MCC has become a lifestyle drink and is not only for celebrations anymore. A great glass of bubbly sets the tone for whatever happens next. It is a great palate cleanser and the best aperitif.
Have MCC styles changed dramatically over the past 15 years?
I don’t think MCC styles have changed over the years, they have just got better. Today they are today much more refined stylistically. Definite styles have emerged over the years, such as the Non-vintage and Vintages blends, Blanc de Blancs, Rosés and even Prestige Cuvees.
Out of these styles various sweetness levels have emerged. There are the sophisticated bone-dry’ styles like Brut Zero/Brut Nature and dry to demi-sec styles. A serious selection fit for every moment.
How do we shape up against French Champagne and Prosecco?
We are certainly in good company! I do believe that champagne will always be the benchmark for the connoisseurs. Cava from Spain has been around for a while, but they are unique due to use of their own varieties: Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel.
Prosecco is huge and gaining popularity in SA, but the consumer must remember that it is a different process to MCC (it is tank fermented and boring as it is made from one grape – Glera). It is a far cry from a good MCC.
Do SA consumers buy French champagne just for the image and how do we change that?
Yes they do. It is the perception and the opportune moment to show they have cash to burn. I know image is important – there is nothing wrong with it, but I do believe charity should start at home and local is lekker.
Local deserves far more of a punt with reference to champagne – but then maybe MCCs are too cheap. Rand for rand, I believe our MCCs punch way above and beyond.
Is SA MCC value for money?
Absolutely! It is the best kept secret. Try it yourself and buy to compare and benchmark.
Give us three of your favourite bubbly and food pairings?
I believe that MCC/bubbly is the most versatile wine for food pairing. There is no right or wrong anymore. Bubbles have the ability to play the enhancer.
- Brut Blend – Oysters on the rocks (anytime)
- Blanc de Blancs – Fresh panseared fish with a butter-blanc sauce
- Rosé – Breast of duck (still moist and pink inside) with roasted vegetables
- Matured MCC – Cheese board (mainly hard cheeses)
Consumers can follow their favourite MCCs by brand, and The Johannesburg Cap Classique and Champagne Festival is yet another platform to find your next favourite MCC.
Many bigger brands work hard on consistency and continuity to ensure you are never disappointed. There are close to 300 different MCCs in the market, and the consumer is spoilt for choice. So go along to the bubbly festival and spoil your palate with your absolute favourite or new find.