Out to lunch with JP Colmant
Here’s to a beautiful life…
JP Colmant (or just JP as he is affectionately known in wine circles) sits at the head of a long table crowded with friends and industry leaders. With a glass of bubbly in hand, he is visibly emotional as he guides us through a vertical tasting in honour of Colmant’s 10th vintage of MCC.
The significance of this moment isn’t lost on any of us. What we hold in these glasses isn’t simply any old bubbly – it’s the distillation of one man’s dreams, hard work and leap of faith.
JP’s journey to becoming one of the top boutique producers of bubbly in South Africa began in 2002. After visiting South Africa on holiday, he and his wife Isabelle fell in love with Franschhoek. “The first time I laid eyes upon its majestic mountains, I could never have imagined the magic that the Franschhoek valley held for my family and I.” Having owned and run a stone manufacturing business in Belgium, the couple took the brave decision to relocate with their five young kids. “It was a big move… with five children!” he says, “But felt the time had come to change direction, to attempt something new, to create something we could enjoy doing and which would benefit our children in years to come.”
Home became a five hectare smallholding that had once been part of the original La Motte farm. “What better place to establish a property dedicated to the production of fine bubbles?” JP continues, “We planted new vineyards and constructed a cellar dedicated to the age-old method of Champagne production.”
Spring 2008 saw the first-ever release of Colmant Cap Classique. The first in South Africa to be devoted solely to Methode Cap Classique (MCC) production, the family’s cellar and blocks of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have quickly risen to become some of South Africa’s finest examples of MCC – having been awarded Platter’s coveted 5 stars no less than twice (so far). Like Champagne, Colmant uses Chardonnay and Pinot Noir exclusively; from Franschhoek, Elgin and Robertson. The most important part of making a refined bubbly, he believes, is blending. “It’s crucial to select the perfect blending components, each adds an extra dimension to the final product.”
During our lunch together, Colmant’s elegant bubblies were exquisitely paired with dishes by Chef Duncan Doherty. From razor clams and ostrich tartare, to a roulade of Kingklip and oysters, right through to a selection of French cheeses and vanilla Panacotta – the different MCC’s proved ideal partners to each of these gastronomic delights.
What a privilege it was to journey through the years vintage by vintage with JP as our tour guide. Like a poetic journal, each one held different secrets, layers and stories. Yet all spoke the same language: one of love, hard work and that quintessential leap of faith.
The Belgian behind the bubbly…
Why did you decide to become a winemaker?
Not many people get the opportunity in life to make their dreams come true, and even less actually grab this opportunity. I’m very grateful for the privilege. Making bubbly is a perfect combination of what I cherish: working in touch with nature and using a subtle mix of science and the senses to eventually result in a refined and noble creation.
Highlights in the future?
This month, we launch the “Absolu Zero Dosage” which I consider as the ultimate expression of Colmant. It’s a proud and joyful celebration.
Your winemaking philosophy?
MCC is made of grapes… therefore the priority must be to first select the right vineyards and the right picking dates for what we want to achieve. If the raw material is right, then the winemaking should be kept as natural and simple as possible. Focus on what you are good at and try to get every vintage closer to perfection.
What do you regard as the main secrets behind Colmant’s success?
A boutique winery doesn’t have the economies of scale and the distribution facilities of a larger winery. It’s therefore of utmost importance to make a competitive advantage on the grounds of the quality and specific house style. At Colmant, we have decided to keep the size restricted which allows me to be entirely in control of the full production process and to give my best attention to all the details. At the end of the day, this is what creates quality. Also, we greatly respect our loyal clientele and are renowned for offering our top quality at very fair prices. People buying Colmant always have the certainty of buying great value. This guarantees us a high level of loyalty from our followers.
Other than bubbly what is your favourite white and red wine to drink?
Without a doubt, Pinot Noir would be my first choice.
Your other passions and hobbies?
I enjoy my time with close friends and my children. Hiking the mountains, road trips, exploring and travelling are definitely my addictions. I have also climbed Kilimanjaro four times and every single of my five children have reached the top of Africa with me (and a bottle of Colmant Cap Classique)!
What can you just not do without in your life?
Friends, love… and bubbles.
Who do you admire in your industry and why?
“Mr Bubbles” aka Pieter Ferreira. Pieter was the very first one to open his doors to me and believe in my project. He has a bottomless passion for Cap Classique and an incredible knowledge that he gladly and humbly shares with the rest of the industry.