The finalists for the 40th Diners Club Winemaker and 20th Young Winemaker of the Year awards have been announced. Five winemakers have been shortlisted to compete for the prestigious Winemaker of the Year Award, and among them we are very pleased to share is our very own winemaker and MCC specialist, Stephan de Beer.
Stephan grew up in Tulbagh valley. Growing up he was always interested in the alchemic nature of fermentation. He would make ginger beer at home and sell it to staff of the surrounding wineries during harvest times. De Beer soon realised he wanted to immerse himself in the science and art of winemaking. To this end he achieved a degree in BSc. Agric in Oenology and Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch in 2006. From the very beginning it was the bubbles that fascinated him, and De Beer was determined to carve out a career as a Cap Classique specialist. In 2008 he became the assistant winemaker for Vintage-Only Krone Méthode Cap Classique and in 2014 he rose to the head winemaker position.
We catch up with him to find out more about the nomination – and the 2017 vintage that put him there.
I was speechless. There was a moment of silence when I was given the news over the phone. I’m super proud and honored to be a finalist in this prestigious award.
The grapes of the 2017 vintage, simply put, were amazing. There were warm days and nice cool evenings that resulted in high acidities for the chardonnay. Even though we were renovating the cellar at that time we managed to get the selected bunches safely into the cellar to be pressed. We do night harvesting so the cool early mornings really helped us to preserve the delicate flavours of the berries.
I really like the 2016 and the 2018 vintage. Tasting these vintages next to each other with the 2017 you can really see the difference in each specific vintage, but also recognise a sense of place.
Our 2020 base wine, which we are bottling now is really excellent. This will also be the first vintage where we use more pinot noir than chardonnay in the blend. The pinot this year gave us the structure we’re looking for.
Due to the lockdown and not being able to sell wine gave us the opportunity to keep the wine longer on the lees. Our 2019 vintage is currently 15 months on the lees and this contributes a lot to the quality of our Vintage-Only Cap Classique.
Our MCC celebrates a moment in time and place. Vintage-Only MCCs are unique in that they show the characteristics of the year without having to meet a house style, which blends away individualism. Every vintage is different in some way, influenced by the weather of that year – and I like to showcase these differences by bottling each vintage separately.
Cap Classique is very versatile and can be pared with a variety of dishes from seafood to a sweet dessert, but for me the best pairing is with a fatty dish like a slow-roasted pork belly with applesauce and roasted baby carrots served with creamy mash potatoes.