COLMANT CAP CLASSIQUE & CHAMPAGNE
Friday 5 July 2019
Dr Peter Rating – Experience: 4/5
Dr Peter Rating – Wines: 4/5
Colmant was due to be my third tasting of my tasting day out in Franschhoek but Haut Cabriere was closed for renovation until September and so I headed to Colmant earlier than planned, arriving just at the 11.00am opening time (weekday closing at 1.00pm). I had come from Le Lude that is just 1 kilometre away and so Colmant was to be my second sparkling wine tasting of the day. The bright winter sunshine made the tree-lined entrance together with the tidy buildings look impressive set against the surrounding mountains even if the marked contrast made good photographs difficult to take. Outside were some of the 3 hectares of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines from the 5 hectare boutique winery, those closest to the Cellar spaced much wider than customary for show purposes.
Amy was my attentive, cheerful and informative host. Colmant offers Cap Classique as well as Champagne tasting, wines for the latter coming from 3 champagne houses (Tribaut, Follet-Ramillon and Mailly Grand Cru). Tastings cost R25 per glass for the MCC and R45 for the champagne. I opted to taste the available MCC wines. Intriguingly, the South African sparkling wines are referred to as ‘Cap Classique’ rather than ‘Méthode Cape Classique’, albeit all MCC/CC are made using the champagne method in which secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle in which the wine is sold.
The difference being that only wines made in the Champagne appellation geographic region can be called champagne. Thus, our MCC are similar in traditional method production to sparkling Vouvray and Saumur (Loire Valley), Crémant (widespread in France and Luxemburg), Cava (Spain) and Franciocorta (Breschia, Italy) but different to the Prosecco, Asti and Lambrusco wines from Italy that use the less costly Charmat (tank or cuve close) method in which secondary fermentation takes place in a pressurised tank. Differences also occur inter alia in permitted grape varieties with almost all MCC made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with a limited number also including Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay typically brings freshness, finesse, acidity, elegance and ageing potential whilst Pinot Noir contributes depth, fullness, structure and fruitiness.
The wines I drank were all non-vintage. Non vintage sparkling wines are not necessarily of lower quality. MCC, like champagne, are heavily blended to make the right ‘house style’ and this often includes ‘reserve wines’ from previous or older vintages to ensure brand consistency. This happens also in white and red wines but less so. Non vintage wines contain at least 15% of wine from other than the harvest vintage. I began with the Brut Plaisir which is the sole wine in the range without Colmant shown on the label and available only for tasting or purchase from the estate itself. The marketing material gives a useful 3 word description of each wine. ‘Fruity. Fresh. Bright’ were the perfect descriptors for the wine and, as I use my hand-written tasting notes, almost identical to my wine description. The MCC is made using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from Franschhoek, Robertson and Elgin in equal amount. This was a light, fruity, clean, refreshing and easy drinking wine that, with 12 months on the lees and 12% alcohol, is made to be drunk now and not for keeping.
The Brut Reserve was a much more serious, though nonetheless approachable, wine that aptly fitted the ‘Sophisticated. Fresh. Elegant’ description. The MCC is made from grapes grown in the same 3 regions with similar blend proportion (52% Pinot Noir) but includes 10% barrel fermented wine and 20% from previous vintages. Thirty months maturation on the lees gave the wine definite yeasty aromas to add to those of lemon and apple, with extra bite, complexity and intensity compared to the Plaisir.
I liked the medium salmon colour and fine stream of rising bubbles of the Brut Rosé. The MCC was fresh, sweet strawberry and red berry fruity on the nose, with fewer yeast aromas than the Brut. This is as I expected from 24 months lees contact, a Pinot Noir-led wine (75%) made with an overnight soak-on-the-skins contact for colour and flavour intensity. The Rosé had a good moussante mouthfeel too. ‘Romantic. Harmonious. Gracious’ were perhaps not my choice of 3 words but I can easily understand how this is a popular wine from the Cap Classique Range.
Jean-Pierre Colmant and his family fell in love with the farm in 2001. The first harvest from newly planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines took place in 2006, a year after the Cellar was completed, with the first MCC released in 2008. Six wines now grace the Cap Classique range, including Absolu Zero (no dosage, bone dry, and extended lees contact) and Sec (off-dry) styles. Amy kindly opened a bottle of the Brut Chardonnay for my final wine of the tasting. Made solely from Chardonnay in classic blanc de blancs (white wine from white grapes) manner, the MCC was a beautiful pale gold colour with excellent intensity of apple, citrus and brioche aromas – aided by 45 months on the lees – for a richer, fuller and more elegant wine. It was my favourite of the tasting and worthy of the ‘Delicate. Crisp. Seductive’ marketing words.
I much enjoyed my experience at Colmant and the sparkling wines. Amy well knew about the wines and the tasting was unpretentious and friendly. I could easily have bought some of the wines – well priced for their quality – but I have a large enough collection waiting to be drunk at home. I liked too how each MCC was distinct and different in character: simple Plaisir; yeasty elegant Brut Reserve; fruity Brut Rosé; and rich, refined Brut Chardonnay. I am sure the champagnes would have been equally as impressive but these shall have to wait until another time …
Wines tasted (bought *):
NV Brut Plaisir Cap Classique – R155
NV Brut Reserve Cap Classique – R205
NV Brut Rosé Cap Classique – R205
NV Brut Chardonnay Cap Classique – R285 FAVOURITE WINE