IT makes me terribly anxious when the cellar master says only 525 bottles of a rather spectacular MCC were filled, and they then proceed to pour several of those for tasting, and hand out several more as media gifts.
Not that it stopped me from accepting my own glorious bottle of Lourensford Cuvée 89 MCC Brut Zero 2007 at the launch event last week, oh no. I’d have to be mad to turn down the sleek, elegant bottle sans label but adorned with an elegant embossed metal brooch at the base of its neck. A card, hand-signed by cellar master Hannes Nel, inside its box tells me it is number 83 of those 525 bottles.
As for what’s inside…the wine was bottled way back in 2007, after which it spent 89 months on the lees (hence the name), and a further three years under cork before being released. During the riddling process, Nel himself personally handled each bottle more than 80 times, and you can see his golden riddling mark at the base of every one.
“I make MCC in the traditional French style, and follow all those rules. If I was allowed to call it champagne, I would,” said Nel. “We exposed the wine to the lees for over seven years, to produce an MCC which expresses the key flavours and character associated with premium sparkling wines crafted in the traditional French method.
“Exactly 10 years later, I’m sure you’ll be surprised with the vibrance of the wine, and the colour of the wine. What excites me most about our Cuvée 89 is that it has matured so elegantly, illustrating that South Africa can produce MCCs with ageing potential. In fact I expect this to be enjoyable drinking even in 2022!”
According to the tasting notes, the Cuvée 89 will likely reach its best drinking potential by the end of this year, but could peak in 2019. It is brilliant right now, which leaves me in the predicament of whether to open it this evening, on New Year’s Eve, or my birthday next year. You’re welcome to place bets among yourselves.
Besides its age, there are some more details about Cuvée 89 that set it apart from other MCCs. Where pinot noir is the common variety blended with chardonnay, this one contains pinotage – because there was no pinot noir available in the 2007 harvest. “It’s the nephew of pinot noir anyway, and I think this is what adds to the uniqueness of this vintage,” said Nel. “It makes it more of a Cap, or Cape Classique.” There is zero dosage, as Nel believes in minimal interference. “We’ve kept it quite pure,” said Nel. “The time on the lees justifies not having to add any sugar.”
Not bad for something that began as an experiment, and Nel’s first foray into making MCC.
Cuvée 89 pairs wonderfully with seafood, and choosing to have the launch at SeaBreeze Fish & Shell in Bree Street was deliberate for more than just this reason. Nel shared an anecdote about seeing a man having fish and chips at a popular place out in Gordon’s Bay, while drinking a bottle of Moët. What could be better than a grand champagne with such a simple meal? And so we were served fish and chips that day – jolly nice too – as as well as oysters with the Lourensford Brut Blanc 2011 (which spends six years on the lees) and Brut Rosé which got us warmed up for the main event, which included a perfectly executed sabrage by Nel.