Melanie van der Merwe is not your typical winemaker. She is South Africa’s first sparkling wine specialist. She went to Stellenbosch University where she studied BsC agriculture with Viticulture and Oenology, at that stage one of only a few girls to study winemaking in those years. Of nine students she was the only girl in class.
Melanie did wine research for 10 months and was then employed as winemaker in 1995 by the same company. In 2001 she was appointed as Cellar Manager / Head Sparkling Winemaker for the Distell group. She worked for a few vintages in Champagne, France, where Michel Pansu (Chef du Cave of Louis Roederer Champagne), Thierry Gasco (Chef du Cave of Pommery Champagne) and George Blanc (Chef du Cave of Moet & Chandon Champagne) taught her the finer skills of making Champagne. “I will always remember these vintages as some of the most special in my life”. During her career she won numerous local awards and was internationally acclaimed for the wines she made. She was also nominated as “one of SA’s leading wine makers”.
After making Sparkling wine and specifically the Cap Classique method for 11 years at Distell, which is the biggest producer of sparkling wine in South Africa, Melanie realized “This is my passion in life and to discontinue making Cap Classique sparkling wine would be like to never fulfil my dream”. Tanzanite MCC expresses her passion for creating unique sparkling wines in the time-honoured, traditional way.
She believes that it is not possible to replicate classical method champenoise wines in South Africa, given the distinct differences in terroir and climate. More important is to create a uniquely, classic South African styled MCC. The majority of the Chardonnay and Pinot noir grapes grown for making Tanzanite originate in the lime rich soils of specific spots in the Robertson Valley, Western Cape.
Grapes are harvested in whole bunches by hand at 19- 20 Degrees Balling. By picking it early in the season it is still crisp with high acidities, low pH levels and fresh fruit flavours. Grapes are whole bunch pressed through a very soft pressing cycle. Yields are around 500 litres of juice per ton. To achieve a soft, yeasty style with elegant flavours, all grapes undergo malolactic fermentation after the primary alcoholic fermentation. This gives the base wine a rounder, broader and more elegant ending.
Tanzanite was awarded a gold Medal at the Michelangelo International Wine awards “For the first time in the Eleven Year History of the Michelangelo International Wine awards of South Africa, a Cap Classique Sparkling wine, won a gold"
In 2016, 2017 and 2018 Tanzanite got a 4.5 Star rating in Platters it was also in the line-up for 5 star Tastings.
It got a 93 point score from Tim Atkin, British Wine Master.