It’s detail, it’s place, it’s people, it’s heart and soul. With these words, Domaine de Dieux managing director and cellarmaster, Sharon Parnell, describes the ethos and philosophy that underpins her success in the hotly contested Method Cap Classique (MCC) market in South Africa.
For the second time in four years, Sharon won the trophy for best Cap Classique with her Claudia Brut MCC 2012, at the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge, reprising her success in 2014 with her Claudia Brut MCC 2009. Last year, Sharon won the trophy for best Brut blend with her Claudia Brut MCC 2011.
“For us it is a huge achievement. I don’t think people can actually quantify what it means to us as a small producer,” she told Bolander after the awards ceremony on Thursday at the 12 Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay. “For us, I think the most important thing is that it shows the consistency of the ethos in what we do with Claudia.
“Our philosophy and ethos in making Cap Classique comes from years of visiting the Champagne region, a love of champagne, and I think, at the end of the day, if you’re going to make this product, it is heart and soul stuff.
“From the very beginning, we knew what style we wanted to make and that is part of the consistency. We didn’t start making Cap Classique as an additional wine – it amounts to 50% of our total production – we did it knowing we wanted to make it in the best possible way, as a premium product, according to the Methode Champanoise, the way it is done there (in France).
“We’re very privileged, because we have that lovely cool climate up in Hemel-en-Aarde (Valley), which gives us wines with a higher acidity than most wines in South Africa, and that allows our wines to age. And we have the right hands, the right ethos and tremendous attention to detail in every step of the process.”
This year saw 127 wines vying for top honours. Cap Classique pioneer, Simonsig Estate, from Stellenbosch, won the rosé category trophy with the Woolworths Pinot Noir Rosé 2016.
Simonsig patriarch, the late Frans Malan, pioneered Cap Classique in South Africa, when he made the first bottle fermented sparkling wine in the style of French Champagne, from chenin blanc grapes, way back in 1971. Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel endures to this day as one of the estate’s most well-known wines.
Franschhoek’s JP Colmant bagged the blanc de blancs trophy with his Colmant Brut Chardonnay NV and in the museum class for wines eight years and older, Elunda Basson took top honours with her Pongracz Desiderius 2009 from the House of JC le Roux.
Chairman of the judging panel Heidi Duminy, CWM, said there can be no doubt about Cap Classique being on the rise in all respects.
“The 127 record show of entries in this year’s competition is both exciting and encouraging and as a panel we were delighted by the overall standard across the classes,” she said. “Every year there is a
tangible step up in quality and intent, especially among the frontrunners.
“The advancement of quality on the whole has raised the bar across all styles, with time on lees clearly key to distinguishing the good from the exceptional.”
Ms Duminy said that Cap Classique has been poised to explode on the international scene in recent years, offering a fantastic proposition for the trending global demand for sparkling wine. “It is really important to position the relative quality according to international standards, and the Amorim Cap Classique challenge is a valuable platform to showcase this potential on both local and international markets,” she said. “The diverse expertise of this year’s judging panel, application of the international 100-point scoring system and stringent sprints of small flights tasted at optimal temperature in larger glasses ensured every wine due consideration. The top wines are stunning.”
Judging with Ms Duminy were Cathy Marston, wine educator and journalist, sommelier-at-large Higgo Jacobs, Elunda Basson, JC le Roux cellarmaster and Pierre de Klerk from Graham Beck. Farai Magwada, sommelier at Cavalli Estate in Stellenbosch, joined the team as an associate judge.
Joaquim Sá, MD of Amorim South Africa, said the country’s wine industry can be justifiably proud of its Cap Classique category.
“As a cork producer, Amorim believes that a natural cork adds value to a bottle of wine by endorsing the product with a closure that represents tradition and quality. This is what Cap Classique does for the South African wine industry: it adds value and at a time when there is great pressure on producers to do just that,” said Mr Sá.