Bean bags and bubbles at Paul Rene MCC

If you drive along the road between Robertson and McGregor, you’ll notice an unusual sign on the right-hand side. It features delicate cut-out foliage and the words ‘Paul Rene MCC’. And, if you’re lucky enough to have an appointment, you’ll shortly find yourself in front of a fairy-tale house, sipping coffee on a lavender-bordered verandah overlooking rose-fringed vineyards.

This is the home of a gorgeous golden-haired couple, Monica and Henk van Niekerk. Both of them are artists, but in slightly different ways. Monica’s passion is illustration, while Henk’s is making bubbly: the distinctive Paul Rene MCC. We’re here to experience both.

A small taste of screen printing

Eight of us crowd into Monica’s studio. Delightful samples of her designs hang on the walls, and dozens of silk screens are stacked against them. Monica is giving us all a chance to try out her favourite art form: screen printing. She invites us each to choose a piece of fabric, a bright paint colour, and one of her designs. Since it’s winter, we’re going to be making bean bag warmers.

With Monica’s help, it’s surprisingly quick and easy to transfer a stylish design onto the fabric. Once the paint has dried in the sunshine, we fill the bags with barley. Quite a lot of the barley ends up on the floor, but Monica just laughs and says she has plenty more. A quick pin and stitch up the open side, and our bean bag warmers are finished. I can’t decide which one is my favourite. Secretly, I want them all!

A substantial taste of Paul Rene MCC

Now it’s Henk’s turn. Chatting excitedly, we file through to the living room where a table is decked with antique Delftware. Monica has even printed personalised place names.

Henk explains the complicated process of making bubbly using the Méthod Cap Classique technique, our local name for the traditional method that’s also used to make most classic Champagnes. He lets us taste the base wine: it’s surprisingly sour. This is actually a good thing for bubbly. In fact, the grapes for bubbly are picked earlier than usual in order to ensure a lower sugar content.

It’s raining bubbles!

Next, Henk leads us outside to demonstrate the second stage of the process. To illustrate the pressure that builds up during the second fermentation in the bottle, he does a manual disgorgement of two bottles still on the lees. (This means that the yeast has not yet been removed.) In my enthusiasm to photograph the spectacle, I get showered with Paul Rene MCC Brut. It’s raining bubbles!

Inside, we taste the immature bubbles. Paul Rene MCC is bottle-fermented for a minimum of 20 months. These were only bottled earlier this year, so they’re still quite sharp. But they have already developed an excellent mousse. Henk sips and looks satisfied.

At last it’s time for the real thing. Henk removes the corks from a bottle of his Brut and of his latest creation: the Paul Rene Rosé. Two pleasing pops and the party has started.

It’s easy to understand why Henk can’t keep up with demand for his Brut. It’s light, elegant, and perfectly dry. There’s none of the overbearing yeast that mars some supermarket MCCs. The rosé is only slightly salmon-coloured, with an unobtrusive hint of rose petals. It pairs perfectly with the strawberry salad, and I confidently predict that his new bubbly will soon be a sell-out too.

Henk wants to know which is our favourite. By the levels in our glasses, it’s clear that our mostly-girl group prefers pink. But when we reluctantly get up to leave, we can’t bear to leave either of the bottles behind.

Paul Rene MCC is situated on Wonderfontein Farm,  1km outside of Robertson on the McGregor road. To make your own reservation for a screen printing workshop or an MCC tasting, simply contact Henk:

Tel: +27  23 626 2212

Cell: +27 83 380 3980

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