Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Graham Beck celebrates 25 years with Pieter Ferreira

Graham Beck sells more than a million bottles of their Mèthode Cap Classique Bubbly every year and that figure is now rapidly on the rise. All the Graham Beck wines are part of our rich wine tapestry and most people know them well. None of us realised that winemaking on the farm was started by Graham Beck only 25 years ago. His purchase of the land followed the Laingsburg floods of 1981, when the existing farm was almost wiped off the face of the earth. The farm was perfect for horses, his great love, and they also began to plant grapes. In 1991 they had their maiden vintage and “the journey of discovery in pursuit of the perfect bubble” commenced, driven by winemaker Pieter (Bubbles) Ferreira, who is still the magician wielding his magic wand there. We celebrated with so much MCC from so many different years and in so many different guises. This was followed by an excellent lunch prepared by Chef Margot Janse of The Tasting room at Le Quartier Française in Franschhoek – what a treat and what an ebullient and joyous celebration! They totally spoiled us
The gathering for the bus to Graham Beck in Robertson was early so we all needed a coffee in the coffee shop of 15 on Orange hotel in town
A warm welcome and a glass of bubbles awaited us on arrival at Graham Beck
The long table set up for the tasting and lunch
A word of welcome from Lisa Keulder, Marketing Manager for Graham Beck
The day was for the trade with some media added
Here Peter tells us about his career at Graham Beck and how it all began ...
... with lots of amusing stories
A pupitre for riddling the bottles, set up in the Tasting room, which is also a gallery
We begin our cellar tour ..
...and extensive tasting of vintages of Graham Beck bubbly
Peter pours us some of the wines made from different chardonnay clones so we can see what each one has to add to the blend
He tells us what we should be looking for
A selection of them, all different
“Are you picking up the citrus?”
and he answered lots of technical questions and taught us much that we didn’t know, even though most people there have studied wine to a high level
They called this the Journey and Discovery tasting. Here are some Pinot Noirs. Note the difference in colour between wines from different vintages
The wine map had Pieter showing us where the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs for MCCs are grown, as well as some of the rarer varieties
We saw the effect of dosage and were amazed at the difference just a minute amount can make to the taste of the wine
Making tasting notes and tasting at the same time requires focus!
More intelligent questions
Pieter discussed the cork trials they have made over the years
Yes please
Now we get on to the older wines and see how it can affect the aroma, the taste and the weight of the wine
One of the first bottles, opening with a bang
Bottles, closures and the limestone rocks the wine is grown on and in
Pieter’s new baby. The Agrafe bottling, sealed with a staple(the agrafe)
The technicalities
And we were able to taste the very first vintage,Graham Beck Brut 2001 Blanc de Blanc. It was bready, almost meaty on the nose, crisp with limes and lemons and still refreshing
Pouring us a glass of the current Graham Beck Brut Rosé to take upstairs with us
Now for the guided tasting in the bottle cellar
Entrepreneur Shaun Terry with Riedel's Tarryn Thomas. Riedel supplied the glasses
Managing Director Chris du Toit, making his speech on the theme of Gratitude. He quoted AA Milne Piglet had a small heart but a large amount of Gratitude. They were all grateful for the vision, courage and tenacity of the late Graham Beck, Rhona Beck’s big heart, son Anthony Beck’s support and involvement. Their achievements like winning the best fermented bubbly in the world award. Yesterday, his financial director had told them they had already beaten their own record of last year by selling 1 million bottles (and there are still two thirds of the year to go.) “ Impossible until it is done” said Mandela. The Laingsberg floods had washed the farm away, so they could begin again. The trust in the team by the family. The Unswerving value systems to unlock the potential of the staff. Dedication of Pieter, his hard work and achievement making the wine and taking it into the market. Graham Beck expected nothing less
Hanging on every word
The line up of wines we were about to taste
A surprise for Pieter, a presentation
Quickly unwrapped
And it is a fantastic painting of him and what he does by the artist Frans Groenewald,
specially signed on the back
Pieter with the whole winemaking team, without whom nothing would be possible
“The journey has just started,” said Pieter. “The best vintages are still lying in the cellar reaching perfection”
Now to taste these wines. How to share 25 years at Graham Beck! A collection of Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc MCCs : 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; 2002 & 1997. They were all exceptionally good but our favourite was the 2007. Very different from the rest, it really stood out with its freshness. It has a very French nose of buttery brioche and shows maturity. It is lean and layered and very sophisticated with a kick of alcohol and more fruit and less acid than some. It ends with long marmalade flavours
Time for lunch. The Canapes were wild mushroom bark with fynbos icing or an Oyster mignonette. Served with the Brut NV Magnum 1994
**The long table set and ready
Chef Margot Janse of The Tasting room at Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek, making the final preparation on the pass
First course
A ridiculously rich, but so right for crisp MCC bubbly, Foie Gras Brûlée and topped with slices of Karoo-plaashoender (farm chicken) and Klein Rivier Grana Padana cheese. Served with the Cuvée Clive 2009
Preparation by the chefs. They must all look the same
The menu
The first course, on the table
Second Course. Very tender slices of octopus tentacles, topped with a sorrel nori and served with a cucumber and horseradish consommé. Served with the Brut Zero 2005
Pieter tells us how they paired the food and the wine
Pouring on the consommé
Parting gifts for everyone, which included a special edition apron
There was a small pause during lunch for Pieter to show us how to remove the corks held on by staples from the bottles
He does it like the expert he is
He then challenged others to try, with varying degrees of success - Sue Proudfoot of Wine Concepts
Ivan Oertle of Woolworths lost the least
Sommelier Ndaba Dube of The Vineyard did a great burst
And Shaun Terry did it with a quiet whisper
Celebrating success
We all donned our aprons for a group picture and, of course, we needed bubbles
and glasses for another toast
Back inside to continue lunch
Third course was a Suckling pig bush braai, with a bowl of aligot (mashed potatoes with garlic and cheese) and Kapokbos (Indigenous rosemary)
The suckling pig was served with the maiden vintage Brut 1991
Then it was time for dessert, a quince crumble, which so echoed the flavours of the Brut Rose 2006
The cooking team for the day did splendidly
One of Graham Beck’s wine Ambassadors, Kerry Kirby, who is responsible for sales in Cape Town. She accompanied us on the bus and kept us well supplied with Brut Rosé for the return trip
It was sunset before we got back to Cape Town after a remarkable day. Thank you, all at Graham Beck, for letting us celebrate with you
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015

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