“It’s pretty obvious what Franschhoek needs most is time”, says wine writer Christian Eedes in a recent profile about our valley. This is true for many other things – in wine and in life. But do we still know how to wait?
As late as the middle 2000’s, 96 Franschhoek producers still supplied their grapes to the Franschhoek Vineyards Cooperative and it is only since DGB purchased the business in 2007, that many Franschhoek wineries started on the way of finding their own identities. And establishing a style in a valley renowned for its diverse terroir is no easy task. While the diversity – from aspect to soil, mountain slopes to valley floor – contributes to the charm of the valley and can attribute to the complexity of the wines, it is a challenge when it comes to finding unique characteristics.
Eedes quotes La Motte Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche: “Now we are starting to re-discover the potential of each farm. The more you get to know your own grapes, the more you can fine-tune.” Growing and making wine is, of course, a timeous process. Getting to know your own grapes might take a few vintages. Understanding your terroir and making the most of it is a process that demands patience. One particular style of wine – one that the Franschhoek Valley is renowned for – is a wonderful example of how rewarding patience can be.
Despite being such a popular wine, I think very few of its fans actually realise the importance of time when it comes to the making of Champagne. The minimum time for non-vintage Champagne to mature on the lees is 12 months, while many receive 18 to 30 months maturation. For Vintage Champagne, the requirement is a minimum of three years and many are held for much longer. (Read more) Méthode Cap Classique, the South African version of Champagne is made in the traditional méthode champenoise and wines are required to spend at least 12 months maturing on the lease.
The Franschhoek Valley’s knack for MCC can be attributed to the quality and variety of local Chardonnays used in the blends. There is also no denying that the annual Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival (it is on this weekend!) adds to the valley’s reputation for being a sparkling hot spot. I also think that there is something about being patient – a prerequisite for making good MCC – that resounds with the way of life in Franschhoek.
We were brought up with the saying: “Good things come to those who wait”, but we don’t have a culture of waiting. Recent generations are challenged by a lack of time and patience. We want immediate gratification and we tend to forget about the virtue of being patient, something that is clear from the global strain on sustainability and the neglect of quality.
I should be the last person to preach patience. I enjoy energy and getting things done, but being a winemaker at heart, something about the line in Eedes’ article touched me. Sometimes all we need is time – whether it is for a wine to become Champagne, a wine region to find itself or a people to heal.