The Cap Classique for the Connoisseur
Aged in their World Class, MCC-dedicated, underground cellars for five years, Cipher is an extraordinary infusion of the estate’s top quality Cuvées, produced from grapes cultivated in the country’s most conducive Cap Classique terrior. Charles Fox regards this as his pièce de résistance, and according to celebrated French Wine Consultant, Nicolas Follet, “Cipher posses the depth, character and quality standards of French Champagne!”
The Furneaux Estate, once a fruit farm in the Cape’s Elgin Valley – home to many of the country’s most regarded winemakers – was bought and transformed a decade ago, following three years of searching for the right site, by Cap Classique devotees Charles and Zelda Fox. “The cool climate in the Elgin Valley perfectly emulates the environment in which the original style of French Champagne is created”, says Charles. According to the Foxs’ International Champagne Consultant, Nicolas Follet, an oenologist who specialises in sparkling wines, “Furneaux’s site suitability is ideal for growing the three classic French champagne varietals – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and for South Africa, the relatively rare Pinot Meunier, that thrive in the area!”
The name Cipher was carefully chosen, as Charles explains, “Cipher – meaning both a code, or the number zero, epitomises our code of excellence, and zero compromise – not to mention our secret to successful winemaking! We are the only Cap Classique wine Estate in the country, determined by the fact that from grape to bottle, everything is grown and made on the estate. We are in a very fortunate position to be able to make only vintage cap classique wines of superior quality. We produce only Vintage Cap Classique, aged on the lees for a minimum of two years, leaning towards a dryer style. Our wine making philosophy, inspired by Nicholas’ respectful approach to nature, gives our MCC’s a natural roundness, texture and fruitiness with a low sugar, low alcohol and low sulphur content thanks to the magical CO2 bubbles!”
Only 2400 bottles of the Cipher Prestige Cuvée – Blanc de Noir was produced, underscoring the boutique brand’s exclusivity.
Blanc de Noirs is white Champagne made from the juice of black-skinned grapes. The term Blanc de Noirs means literally ‘white of blacks’, and is effectively the opposite of Blanc de Blancs. The only two red grapes permitted for use in Champagne wines are Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The term can also be seen on labels of sparkling wine from other regions.
The production of white wines from black grapes might seem unusual, but it is entirely normal in Champagne. In fact, the vast majority of Champagne is made from a combination of black-skinned grapes and light-skinned grapes. By pressing the grapes very lightly, and not squeezing pigments out of the skins, the juice remains clear and almost entirely colourless.
Blanc de Noirs Champagnes are, on the whole, richer and more full bodied than wines with a major component of Chardonnay. Tasting notes often mention red and black fruit aromas. But two examples can be as different from each other as from a Blanc de Blancs.
One reason for this may be the proportions of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The latter is more often used to provide youthful fruit in blends, but a few growers focus on the variety. Top examples of Pinot Meunier Champagne can be elegant and lively, or soft and rounded.
According to Zelda Fox, “The tiny bubbles in MCC provide “texture” to the wine that enables it to stand up to much heavier foods rich in flavour. Cipher pairs well with hors d’oeuvres like shell fish, oysters, lobster, brie, and mature cheeses like camembert and goat’s cheese.”
Since planting their first vines in 2007, they have sold out of their Brut and Brut Rosé production! Not surprising for a tenacious achiever like Charles who was the youngest swimmer who competed in the 1964 Olympics.
South Africa’s wines have built up an enviable reputation, not just in their home country, but internationally. Cipher shows that when it comes to producing sparkling wines that reputation is enhanced by bearing comparison with the best available from anywhere else in the world.