Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 Cap Classique Challenge Awards lunch at the Twelve Apostles

The 15th year of the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge
The awards ceremony for this prestigious competition, sponsored by Portuguese cork producer Amorim, was held last Wednesday at the Twelve Apostles Hotel. There were 113 entries for the four categories: Blanc de Blancs, Rosé, Blended Brut and a Museum Class for wines including and before the 2008 vintage. And there were a few surprises this year. The labels usually at the top were not up there and two producers both took home two top awards. The wines are tasted blind by a panel of experienced judges and this year there was a change in judging procedures in that categories were narrowed, with judging no longer being done separately on vintage and non-vintage wines. And to promote inclusivity among producers, entries were open to non-members of the Cap Classique Producers Association. The winners are: Best Brut and Overall Winner: Anura Brut 2011; Best Rosé: J.C. Le Roux Pinot Noir Rosé 2010; Best Blanc de Blanc: Colmant Brut Chardonnay NV; Best Museum Class: J.C. Le Roux Scintilla Vintage Reserve 2008; Frans Malan Legacy Award: John and Erica Platter
The 12 Apostles Hotel has become the home of this award ceremony , now the second longest running competition for a single category of wine. It is not difficult to see why, when celebrating MCC with this wonderful view on such a beautiful day.
Taking our seats inside the conference venue
PRO for the Cap Classique Producers Association, Emile Joubert, gets proceedings started
Joaquim Sá, Managing Director for Amorim South Africa, told us that in 2015 MCC producers in SA sold 3,5m bottles in South Africa, with another 2,5m being exported to Africa, Europe, the Far East and America. 15 years ago local sales of MCC were just 700 000 bottles p.a. But they must look to their laurels as there has been an explosion of sales of imported Champagne in South Africa, which sold over 700 000 bottles last year and sales seem to be growing by 20% per annum
We were poured some Colmant Brut Chardonnay MCC non-vintage to accompany our starter. Our waiter Alfred Muswaka, who is training as a sommelier, pours here for Fatima Oliveira and Marlize Uys
Also at our table were Lucille Botha, Christian Eedes and Nicolas Follet and, not in the picture, Heidi Duminy, Higgo Jacobs and JP Colmant
The astoundingly simple starter of Eggs on Toast; what an absolute hit. A sweet brioche toasted, buttered, covered with a very fresh hen's egg cooked sous vide at 63⁰C, with pickled shimeji mushrooms, nicely browned field mushrooms, crisp smoked bacon pieces (missing on my plate!) covered in a potato and chive foam sauce and topped with a little truffle. OK, not that simple, just delicious. The textures and flavours all went so well together and with the crisp, rather French style Colmant Blanc de Blanc
Francois Jacques Malan of Simonsig. His Grandfather, Frans Malan, produced the first MCC
Next, head judge Alan Mullins told us that the wines have improved year on year. He has judged since the start and this year there were lots of smiles, as the judges were left bubbling with enthusiasm for the quality and the consistency. The judges this year were: Allan Mullins (Chair), Jeff Grier, Higgo Jacobs, Cathy Marston, Paul Gerber, Linley Schultz and Heidi Duminy. Sandile Mkhwanazi joined the panel as associate judge. “In previous years there has been a fair percentage of unacceptable Cap Classiques, says Mullins. “We found wines made with unripe grapes that were distinctly green and acidic, others that had been released too early and lacked flavour, and those that showed clumsy handling in the cellar. “But this year we were overwhelmed with fresh, bright and well-made wines. They tasted the wines out of wine glasses rather than flutes as it shows the wine to better advantage. There were not many double golds this year because of the high quality of entries. They don't want ripe fruity flavours, just good acidity, and no greenness. Crushing is important, blending very. The blenders of MCC are the rock stars of this difficult art. Wines need to spend time on the lees for richness, but the cost of the time on lees is also important and dosages are vital as they bring balance to the wine
Alan gets a round of applause
Next we were served the JC Le Roux Scintilla Vintage Reserve 2008 while we watched the awards being presented. JP Colmant won the trophy for Best Blanc de Blancs with the Colmant Brut Chardonnay MCC non-vintage. The panel especially found the Blanc de Blancs Class a big improvement on previous years. “Wooding of the base wines was evident, but this had been well judged and subtle. There was a move towards broader wines rather than austere acidic examples, Alan Mullins says. The House of JC le Roux, one of South Africa’s premier Cap Classique producers, took two trophies, winning the Rosé section with the JC le Roux Pinot Noir Rosé 2010 as well as the Museum Class with the JC le Roux Scintilla Vintage Reserve 2008. Anura Vineyards won the Best Blended Brut category and they were the overall winners
Jean Pierre Colmant brought his Trophy for the best Blanc de Blancs to his place at our table
Lots of discussion about the awards at the tables while we wait to be served the second course
The second course, smoked Hout Bay Hake with a pea puree, spicy crisp chorizo, corn salad and a creme fraiche mousse. The fish on our plates was pappy and completely tasteless, but we really liked the flavours and textures of the rest of the dish, although calling the pea puree pannacotta was a bit of a stretch. It was paired with the JC le Roux Scintilla Vintage Reserve 2008, winner in the Museum class
Then for the main course of Barbequed Pork Belly on an aubergine puree and a great Sherry Prune Jus, a burnt apple gel, pickled Daikon and an interesting Bitterballen. A rich well flavoured dish, tender, if a little fatty, pork with a lovely sauce, rich aubergine, the daikon made no impact and the popcorn crackling underwhelmed
Served with the winning Brut, Anura Vineyards’ MCC Brut 2011. This was a wine you either loved, or not. It is complex
Elunda Basson, cellarmaster for J C le Roux
Joaquim Sá, managing director for Amorim South Africa presents the top award, a handsome sword (useful for doing sabrage on bubbly bottles) to outgoing Anura Cellarmaster Johnny Calitz 
Tymen makes his speech of thanks
Once a year they present the special Frans Malan Legacy Award to people in the industry for their past services. This year it was presented by Francois Malan jointly to John and Erica Platter, who started the John Platter Wine Guide in 1980. They sold the Guide a few years ago, and it is now owned by the John Platter SA Wine Guide (Pty) Ltd and sponsored by Diners Club
Erica Platter, who edited the guide, made a very amusing thank you speech about being regarded as the wife in support rather than the equal partner she is. Lynne empathises
John Platter's killer remark in his speech was that they really knew very little about wine, something most of us would roundly contradict
Head Sommelier of the 12 Apostles Hotel Greg Mutambe
The winners with their trophies pose with Joaquim Sá, managing director for Amorim South Africa
Erica Platter with their award and Francois Malan
Francois Jacques Malan, John Platter, Erica Platter and Francois Malan with the Frans Malan Trophy
Dessert was a lovely mango mousse, a rich milk chocolate Crémeux, a nice sharp contrasting kiwi sorbet and a coconut whipped ganache, crisp and crumbly. Don't know who did the whipping? or why? It wasn't bad. The hazelnut sponge looked like broken brown bread and didn't add much to the dish
And finally with good black coffee, some Petit Fours. Liked the little chocolate cups filled with a tea? flavoured cream topped with mini Maltesers. Those caramel rice crispy bars were a bit soggy and stuck to the teeth
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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