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How to tell the difference between champagne, MCC and Sparkling Wine

Drink

There is something about sipping on some bubbly that says sophistication and glam.

No celebration is complete without adding some bubbly to the mix, whether it is at a wedding, birthdays or a night out with friends.

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Boschendal MCC winemaker, Lizelle Gerber her tips for becoming a bubble connoisseurBoschendal Brut Chard Pinot NoirBoschendall Brut Rose

Jaws dropped this week when rapper JayZ released a new champagne.

The house of Armand de Brignac’s Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Two (A2) will set you back a staggering $850 (around R11 773.69) per bottle, or R 138 514 per case.

While the A2 may not be popping at your next party, it is worth knowing a little bit more about this effervescent elixir.

But what is the difference between Champagne, Méthode Cap Classique and Sparkling wine and what makes each of them so special?

Boschendal MCC winemaker Lizelle Gerber shares the top cheat sheet tips for becoming a bubble connoisseur, so you can go on an impress your guests at the next celebration

There are three main types of bubbles, Gerber explains:" the difference between MCC and champagne is that the term champagne is reserved for wine made from grapes harvested in Champagne, France.

"Both wines rely on the traditional French fermenting process, which is labour intensive, time consuming and entirely reliant on handpicking only the best grapes to ensure exceptional quality and optimal purity of fruit.

"This is what makes them so sought after and valuable."

Gerber says Méthode Cap Classique, or MCC, is South Africa's bubble equivalent to champagne.

"As the term champagne is reserved, South Africa’s bubble equivalent is known as Méthode Cap Classique (MCC), despite being made the same way,"she explains.

"For Boschendal – grapes harvested for their MCCs are from cool climate, high-altitude vineyards which deliver exceptional elegance and fruit purity and thus create truly outstanding bubbles."

"Sparkling wine by comparison is created by a process which uses artificial carbonation on the production line- a factor that’s detectable through the coarser, larger bubbles, and distinctly different drinking enjoyment."

The difference can easily be spotted in the size of the bubbles.

“As mentioned above, you can spot champagne and MCC by their refined effervescence with tiny bubbles, while sparkling wine has larger, coarser fizz,” Gerber says.

Boschendal MCC winemaker, Lizelle Gerber her tips for becoming a bubble connoisseur


Champagne and MCC take time.

“Aging is an art.

"Vintage champagne has to age for a minimum of three years, and that’s considered young,”says Gerber

“When something is crafted for such a long period it inevitably becomes an item to be valued. It takes close to seven years for Boschendal’s Jean le Long MCC to be released from harvest, but the result is worth the wait.”

Short supply means high demand.

Often released in small batch quantities, MCC and champagne production is not a mass-scale operation – particularly due to the long aging process required.

As only 2,333 bottles of A2 are being released, it’s become a precious collector’s item, which makes it something people will pay top dollar for.

Quality is key

Every aspect of the bubble making process is fastidiously quality controlled – including the initial selection and nurturing of the vineyards.

Gerber says: “the highest quality MCCs reply on grapes sourced from meticulously maintained vineyards.

“For example, our Jean le Long MCC is reliant on exclusively selected chardonnay from cooler climate vineyards for its crisp natural freshness and complex minerality.”

It's a process:

Gerber says the method involves premium quality juice undergoing a series of ten steps in a bottle fermentation process, which creates the fine fizz characteristic of MCC.

While ‘sparkling wine’ relies on artificial carbonation, true MCC belies any such interference. Although a process is adhered to, Gerber believes there’s no fixed formula.

“Every iteration is slightly tweaked to optimally enhance what nature has so amply provided.

"As a winemaker, my role is to artfully amplify these natural flavours. It’s this constant tweaking that also makes MCC and champagne such prized products,” she says.

Both Jay Z’s A2 and Boschendal’s award-winning range of MCCs epitomise commitment to a traditional art form that prizes perfection. While the A2 is undoubtedly a chic status symbol in gun-metal grey, Boschendal’s MCC range is identical in quality and allure – but at a more affordable price. Gerber adds:, “We have great respect for Armand de Brignac and we’d like to congratulate Jay Z on his new offering.

"Champagne and MCC are a deluxe offering in keeping with an elegant, celebratory lifestyle, a glamorous association we’re proud to be a part of.”

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