Charles Dickens once said, ‘Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life’. Napoleon remarked, ‘In victory one deserves it, in defeat one needs it.’ We at DECO agree with both. So let’s hear it from the man who makes a living by making it.
Meet Alexis Christodoulou who featured in our Winter Issue as the MCC master at the family owned farm, Ambeloui.
Ambeloui’s Methode Cap Classique is incredibly exclusive – its only harvested twice a year and is sold out quickly. All their attention is focused on creating a high quality product and it definitely shows.
The farm is located in Hout Bay, where the family home overlooks the vineyard. Upon arrival we are greeted by a charming Greek woman who offers us freshly baked spannekopitas and a glass of MCC Rose. A family owned business, Alexis took over the reigns from his father who he used to help make wine in the cellar when he was younger.
What is your first memory of wine?
Probably the Holy Communion at the Greek Orthodox church in Pretoria when I was still a small child. It’s served in a little spoon with some bread. Wasn’t an amazing experience, I secretly hated it. However, it did make me realize in later life that some of the most pious figures in history were also responsible for most of the alcohol we make today. After all, it was a Benedictine Monk by the name of Dom Perignon who revolutionized Champagne.
Which wine growing region internationally has had the most influence on your wine?
I don’t think it’s really a choice. I was raised making MCC which is a direct descendent of Champagne, and while many of the producers in the Cape are very experimental with their MCC, we have always been inspired by the tradition of the original Champagne makers from France.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about South African soil/grapes that make our harvest special?
A more interesting fact about the Hout Bay region where I grew up making and still make wine is that it used to have vineyards all the way up the valley. However, the vines were all wiped out by phylloxera and shortly after, the valley began to develop. We have excellent soil in Hout Bay for grapes, and the cool maritime air is what we believe makes our vineyards special. We also now have American rootstocks (American vine at the bottom and European vine at the top like everyone else) so phylloxera isn’t a problem anymore.
Family seems to be a big part in most wine farms/vineyards – what sort of winemaking techniques have you learned from your father?
I was raised helping my father make wine in the cellar so pretty much everything I know about wine making comes from him. However, my mother taught me to drink in moderation, which I adhere to, in moderation of course.
Give us a short lesson in where the difference in technique comes between wine and MCC.
There are many differences in the technique. You pick MCC grapes much earlier for a lower alcohol base wine and unlike still wine, you ferment it a second time inside the bottle, the process that gives MCC its magical bubbles. We are lucky, that being so small I am able to really pay attention to each part of the MCC process. I can pick almost 100% of my grapes at exactly the right time and really make sure that I only take the finest pressings of juice for my final product.
Are you finding any challenges related to our South African climate change?
It’s strange but it our crops for the last 2 years have actually been slightly better. It’s been hot and dry and personally we’ve seen a decrease in the amount of disease that we need to defend against. Excellent grapes so far!
For you as a young MCC maker, what thus far has been the most rewarding for you about the business?
Having a really nice selection of wine at my apartment at all times.
Some bottles are meant to be kept for ageing and some get corked if they stand too long. How can one tell if they should wait or not?
MCC and Champagne have a very different ageing method to still wines. The wine matures in the bottle with yeast contact (lees) in the producer’s cellar. Once it’s got a cork in it, it doesn’t technically mature any more (although some will argue that point with you). So in conclusion, you should drink it right away and make sure you get at least half of the bottle for yourself.
When you get together with the rest of the family, what do you drink?
We usually sit around and drink one of our bottles of MCC and joke about the sibling that it’s named after. When we get tired of making fun of everyone, we’ll have single malt and I’ll drink a Citizen beer from my friend Gary.
Photography by Danielle Klopper
We’ll also get to know Gary from citizen (Cape Town) and Andrew Martin from SMACK! Republik brewery (Johannesburg) to learn how they got the job most men dream of.
Their MCC Brut Chardonay And Rose prices range from R125 – R135
Contact them directly for orders via firstname.lastname@example.org
The Winter Issue is all about de-cluttering, de-teching and slowing everything down. Packed with inspiration and ideas for making your home a sanctuary, we share the ultimate comfort food recipes, master the art of nesting and take you on a tour of the dreamiest hideaways. Pick up your copy today and tell us what you think on Twitter @Elle_Deco using #WinterIssue.