In success you deserve it – drinking and cooking with MCC

“The possibilities are endless,” says winemaker Ken Forrester, the godfather of Chenin Blanc in South Africa, explaining how the trend is moving towards using non-traditional cultivars for Méthode Cap Classique (MCC).

Globally, and most certainly locally, South African sparkling wine made in the traditional French manner (aka MCC) is carving an identity of its own and is not merely seen as Champagne’s bubbly cousin.

“Bubbly is bubbly, whether it is Prosecco, Sekt, Cremant de Loire, et al. It’s a huge market and is growing faster than any other category of wine at the moment,” he continues.

And, of course, the Ken Forrester Sparklehorse is made with, you guessed it, Chenin Blanc. What makes this grape suited to MCC? “It really depends on the site and potential ripeness, so you need to have a cool site where you can pick early – almost a contradiction in terms!” 
Winemakers are experimenting with red cultivars too (Pinotage and Shiraz) and even with techniques from ancient times, such as South African Methode Ancestrale.
 When asked what he foresees for the MCC industry in the next five years, Ken says: “Buy shares in a bubbly cellar! It’s growing, growing!”
 It’s not just the winemakers who are experimenting with bubbly – chefs across the land are tapping into the allure of the sparkling stuff, either in pairings, or indeed as part of a dish’s ingredient profile.

Neil Jewell of Bread & Wine on Môreson swapped the white wine for MCC in a risotto with peas and truffle oil at a recent winelands’ function. For cooking at home, you can substitute bubbly in just about anything that requires white wine. Poaching fish? Use MCC instead of the classic white. Steaming mussels? Pour the golden stuff over and reduce with cream, and so on.

Where MCC trumps white wine without a doubt though is in the dessert world. A white wine sabayon? No thanks. But a Champagne sabayon is the stuff dreams are made of. Egg yolks, sugar and bubbly are whisked over gently boiling water to create a light, ethereal sauce.

At Laborie, the harvest menu is not only littered with MCC pairing suggestions, but also a sensational summer dessert of berries, pink peppercorn meringue, homemade blueberry ice cream and ‘Laborie classic sabayon’.

While down the road at Simonsig Estate the restaurant, Cuvée, pays homage with its name. Bubbly is also often used with dishes in the ‘seasonal’ menu. 

Prominent producer Graham Beck in Franschhoek at one stage offered a six-course tasting menu all paired with the estate’s MCC.

Not only is South African bubbly gaining ground and respect as a competitor in the global sparkling wine industry but it appears it’s good enough to eat too.

Ken’s tips on serving bubbly:

  1. Never sabrage a bottle that has been standing half in and half out of an ice bucket. The entire bottle needs to be submerged for the surface of the glass to be the exact same temperature. If not, the bottle can literally explode!
  2. Pour the wine elegantly with your thumb in the punt of the bottle.
  3. Champagne glasses should be squeaky clean with no trace of detergent as this can affect the mousse and taste.


– Malu Lambert