Amorim MCC Challenge winners 2016 – the insider scoop

The prestigious Amorim MCC Challenge Award winners were announced today at the Twelve Apostles Hotel. I was fortunate enough to be on the judging panel for the fourth year in succession so here are a few thoughts – both retrospect and looking forwards.

For starters – I don’t think there is a more important competition in SA right now. The world CAN NOT get enough of bubbles – at all levels.

Globally, the world’s best-selling wines are Prosecco and Asti and when it comes to reasonably-priced alternatives to champagne, I see no reason why SA isn’t right there in the mix (We also need to start making and marketing more entry-level alternatives to Moscato d’Asti – see the fabulous De Krans version – but that’s a conversation for another time).

Why we love bubbles

The point is that bubbles are sexy. They’re sophisticated. They evoke a glamorous life of yachts, oysters and Ferraris which nearly all of us will never obtain. But we can all enjoy good fizz, and what is more, we don’t need to spend the earth either. Are SA MCCs as good as French Champagne? Some. Not all. And I would probably choose top Champagne over most MCCs – but only at the top end. Because the line between the two is getting ever thinner and that can only be a great thing for South Africa.

Winemakers becoming more thoughtful and more educated

My thoughts from this year’s Amorim MCC challenge were overwhelmingly-positive. A year or so ago, we had a lot of band-wagon jumpers who made a fizz cos everyone else did, or made a fizz cos they had a wedding venue on the farm and wanted to cover all the vinous bases.

My impression this year was that winemakers are becoming more thoughtful and more educated about their bubbles. We had far fewer absolute duffers in the line-up and far more attention to detail with winemakers striving to preserve fruit purity combined with salty, yeasty autolytic notes. And that balance, at the end of the day, must be something all fizz-lovers must cherish.

The winners

So congratulations to the winners and, in particular, very well done to Anura for winning best overall wine with their delicious 2011 Brut. The Blanc de Blanc NV from Colmant was wonderfully-balanced, elegant and fresh whilst the Pinot Noir Rosé 2010 from JC le Roux was a revelation in terms of depth of flavour and intensity.

But my favourite on the day was the Museum Class winner, the Scintilla 2008, also from JC Le Roux. Ignore this big producer at your peril because this stuff is really very good indeed and when you add in a bit of extended lees time – this has my name written all over it. Well done to Elunda Basson, cellarmaster of JC le Roux, who crafted this wine on her first vintage at the farm – more power to your riddling and dosaging elbow, and please make more of this kind of wine every year!

What's your favourite MCC? Tell us in the comments below.

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