A Fizzy Start

Pieter ‘Bubbles' Ferreira kicked off harvest 2007 for the Robertson area on January 5th, quipping that for his16th vintage of Graham Beck MCC production he's making ‘oupa' bubbly. ‘Grapes coming in are really excellent. We're a week in with around 220 tons in - it's two-thirds Chardonnay and one-third Pinot Noir. We're harvesting our older blocks at the same time as last year in Robertson,' says Pieter. A first is three tons of Pinot Noir from Firgrove in Franschhoek, so Graham Beck's bubblies will truly be multi-regional. ‘Everything is running smoothly and acidity levels are just where we want them. The first base wines are fermenting away.'

Philip Jonker of Weltevrede brought in his first grapes for MCC on Monday January 8th. ‘I returned from Stilbaai on Sunday night at 10 o'clock and I started picking Pinot Noir the next morning. It got rid of my post-holiday blues!' he laughs. ‘The analysis was perfect. I've got one vineyard of about 3ha of Pinot. At this stage I only have Philip Jonker Brut using 100% Chardonnay on the market, so there will be a change in packaging when we introduce the Pinot Noir to the blend [2007 is their third crop]. Weltevrede picked Chardonnay for bubbly on January 15th. ‘I'm very happy at this stage,' adds Philip.

Fred Viljoen at Viljoensdrift started harvesting a small Chardonnay crop on Thursday January 11th. They don't have any Pinot Noir grapes. ‘We finished on Friday afternoon already - only 12,000 bottles. We made 6000 bottles of MCC in 2006, but it's still in a crown cap. I want to keep it for two years before bottling. The analysis looks good - sugar is 19.5 and pH is around 3. I don't know what the wine will be called yet. We'll start thinking in June/July. We'll probably only release in 2008.'

Robertson Winery hasn't named the MCC they've produced on a small scale since 2006 either. Their first MCC release is also pegged for 2008. ‘We've received 4.5 tons so far, of which 20% was Pinot Noir. The balance was Chardonnay. That's for the few bottle of Cap Classique that we're making,' explains chief winemaker Lolly Louwrens of the 2007 harvest. ‘To me it's a very exciting thing - something different because it's on a small scale compared to the volumes we do.' News on the grapevine is that Lolly's wife Helaine has a new hobby making MCC, using grapes provided by friends. 2007 should be her second experimental vintage.

JC le Roux's Stellenbosch production facility produces the JC le Roux and Pongracz brands of sparkling wine and MCC. Their machinery was set into gear on January 10th, with Chardonnay from Robertson arriving first. ‘We were bringing that in most of the week. Our Pinot Noir from the Philadelphia area also came in on Wednesday. On Thursday [January 11th] we started harvesting Pinot from Papkuilsfontein,' says winemaker Wilhelm Pienaar. ‘Quality is very high, there are nice strong acids, pH looks good and it all looks very healthy.'

Bon Courage kicked off on January 8th, while Bon Cap in Eilandia started harvesting Chardonnay for Cap Classique on January 9th, six days after their 2006 starting date.

In Tulbagh, Twee Jonge Gezellen should bring in bubbly grapes within the week. In Stellenbosch, Simonsig trucked in Chardonnay grapes from Robertson on 8th January, and harvested Pinot Noir from Simondium on Friday 12th. Both are destined for their Kaapse Vonkel. Franschhoek's Cabrière Estate has been producing bubbly for 24 years, so Achim von Arnim isn't hurrying any grapes into ripeness before they're ready. They should start trickling in this week.