The Phoenix: An Interview With Winemaker Stephan de Beer

The Phoenix is a legendary solar bird that cyclically rises from the ashes as a symbol of eternal life. The renewed energy at Twee Jonge Gezellen as the renovation of this historic property continues, demanded the recognition in the form of a new release and in the symbolism of this mythical bird from which it takes its name.

We talk to our winemaker Stephan de Beer about this special release.

This Phoenix is an assemblage of the best of three vintages (2004, 2005, 2006). This is what is known as multi-vintage Cap Classique, and is a purposeful blending of cuvées from different years to achieve a superior house style.

“Winemakers use this technique as we can choose the best wines of multiple vintages to create a high quality, more complex and more interesting wine,” says Stephan. “Each vintage adds something different.”

The wine is then maturated for a number of years on the lees to further enhance the complexity. The Phoenix has spent a total of nine years on the lees.

Though, before The Phoenix gets to the maturation process, the making of this special Cap Classique begins in the vineyard.

Twee Jonge Gezellen’s vineyards run up the eastern slopes of the Saronsberg Mountain in Tulbagh. Vines growing on sandstone soils offer premium grapes with good natural acidity. The grapes for The Phoenix (as well as for all the other wines in the range) are also all harvested at night.

“This prevents the natural fresh flavour compounds situated just underneath the skin of the grape from oxidising in the intense heat and sunlight during the day,” explains Stephan. “We want to make sure the grapes are cool and fresh when they get to the cellar, with the resulting juice being very high quality.”

Stephan describes The Phoenix as ‘terroir specific’ wine. “The grapes—Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—used in this blend were specially selected from certain blocks on the farm and it really portrays the type of terroir we enjoy.”

In the cellar the winemaking team combined time-honoured techniques with innovative methods, using the traditional ‘méthode champenoise’ where the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.

The question is: what’s the taste difference between an MCC that’s been on the lees for longer than three years? “The aged Cap Classique is complex with an intense matured flavour profile compared to a younger bubbly. The mousse will also be finer.”

Tasting note: This Cap Classique shows elegance and complexity. The nose offers the scent of yellow blossoms, ripe peach and classic biscuity notes. The palate shows fresh apple and lemon cream flavour whilst the mousse is fine yet persistent. The finish has an underlying zesty freshness and a satisfying creaminess, which stems from extended lees contact.

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