Pieter Ferreira a.k.a. ‘Mr Bubbles’ has long loved fizz, so really, there’s no better place for him to take up the role of cellarmaster than at Graham Beck, the renowned winery that is located in Robertson, Western Cape, South Africa.
A passionate vintner, he has been with Graham Beck since their debut vintage, and over the years he has been an integral member of the team, establishing the brand as one of the world’s leading producers of premium Méthode Cap Classique style sparkling wines. After all, the Graham Beck Brut is referred to as ‘President’s Choice’ as it was served at both Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and Barack Obama’s presidential win.
A style that’s identical to the traditional method used to make Champagne, Méthode Cap Classique uses a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And so, expect a fresh, yet creamy, rich taste that features citrus flavours.
We learn more from this bubblemaster on crafting wines of authenticity at Graham Beck, his role and his top picks for autumnal feasting.
Tell us about the brand and its origins.
Graham Beck, the man, was a coalminer by trade and had a thorough horse breeding stud in Robertson. One day in 1983, he bought Madeba Farm, which was badly damaged by a flood. He repaired and replanted the farm to become the best example of Cap Classique in South Africa and take the brand into the international markets. He was a visionary man and stood firm by his ideals.
I joined the Beck Family in 1990 and over the years since 1991, our maiden vintage, we have developed a beautiful portfolio of Cap Classique. Today the Robertson region is one of the most important areas for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for Cap Classique. Robertson has three unique advantages: Sunshine, highest natural occurrence of limestone in the soils and has a huge diurnal shift (of up to 20C).
What’s your role at Graham Beck?
It is an unusual story, but I have been here since the inception. Having done our 31st vintage, my mantra remains forever “in pursuit of the perfect bubble”. My role? Bubblemaster comes to mind. Bubbles have consumed my life and it is more than eating, sleeping, and drinking it. I have a fantastic team under Pierre de Klerk who is now my successor as cellarmaster. We have been together for 11 vintages and are going from strength to strength.
Tell us about the production process.
Cap Classique is uniquely South African. We follow the exact process of Méthode Champenoise, which means we develop the bubbles naturally by doing a second fermentation – just like in Champagne. Attention to detail is vital and refining our approach year on year keeps us ahead of the rest. We also don’t want to be the biggest but the best. One of our focal points during harvest is the handling of the grapes, from picking all the way to when they are in juice form.
Which are your top three bottles and why?
It is the three bottles in our fridge! As a style I really like Blanc de Blancs – Chardonnay is so versatile – and currently we have three variations of it in our portfolio: Blanc de Blancs Vintage, Ultra Brut and Cuvee Clive. So I am very happy to say they are currently my top three. Those three are more special, but you will always find at least three bottles of the Graham Beck Brut NV in the fridge, just in case!
When it’s comes to pairings, which do you recommend for Autumn feasts?
Yes! Cheeseboards with a selection of hard cheeses (i.e. Comte, Beaufort, Reblochon, Comtal) and then Rose with Christmas turkey, for sure. Our Cap Classiques are so versatile when it comes to pairings.
What can we expect for 2022?
Oh yes, new vintage releases in our Vintage Collection, not to forget our consistency and continuity of the Graham Beck Non-Vintages. In our Artisan Collection we are waiting in anticipation to look into our first Single Site-specific Chardonnay. Watch this space!