What does an ex-math teacher, award winning MCC wines and a first-ever for MCC production in South Africa have in common? It’s simple – all of these elements can be found at Le Lude in Franschhoek.
I’ve always found it rather naïve that some perceive sparkling wine a suitable companion only when celebration is in order (such as the conclusion of the Springbok’s rugby match against the Irish in Dublin the past weekend). But things have changed and increasingly more people are breaking out the bubbly for seemingly mundane events. As it should be. You see, every day is a celebration and the mundane moniker is simply arbitrary – and unnecessary.
Paul Gerber, winemaker at Le Lude, agrees and says that people are really missing out on the variety and quality of sparkling wine when it’s merely reserved for celebrations. By introducing the Agrafe for the first time in South Africa, Le Lude can now offer an even greater diversity to MCC lovers all over the country.
As for Agrafe (or Tirage Liege for you Francophiles), it is the method of using a cork as a closure after filling and preparing the bottle for prise de mousse (second fermentation). The cork is held in place by a specially selected metal staple called an agrafe.
The special Amorim corks used for Agrafe allows the wine to be in contact and interact with natural cork during ageing on lees. Wine proteins and glycoproteins combine with polyphenols that leach out of the cork disks at the wine surface. This causes the mousse to last longer – in other words, better foam stability is achieved. Another remarkably noticeable effect is an increase in texture, mouthfeel and complexity, but with maintained elegance. Ellagitannins is an example of a polyphenol which is an important contributor towards texture and mouthfeel. Paul also points out that the MCC made with an Agrafe is certainly not more oxidative than wine made with the metal cap – oxygen ingress during secondary fermentation where an Agrafe is concerned is minimal and results in a better fermentation.
But where did this fascination with the Agrafe come from? Paul says he attended a tasting in France in 2012 (shortly before the very first Le Lude bottling) and the quality of the bubbly made the decision to start using the Agrafe a no-brainer. Paul says, “We started making our first MCC with the Agrafe in 2012 and our production back then was 1 000 bottles. We’ve been able to sustain good growth using this method and for the last couple of years we’ve been producing about 6 000 bottles per annum. In total we’ve produced more than 20 000 bottles with the Agrafe.”
A tasting on 27 November in Constantia will reveal the true class of Le Lude’s MCC wines and will feature their Vintage Cuvée Collection and the South Africa’s First Agrafe Cap Classique.
Not everybody will be able to attend this event, but what’s stopping you from getting your hands on some fine MCC and making a toast – to anything? You can do this while listening to the correct pronunciation of the word “Agrafe” by clicking on https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agrafe.