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House of Graham Beck is celebrating four decades of producing sparkling wine

Founded in 1983, the House of Graham Beck has been firmly established as a leading producer of Cap Classique, South Africa's premium Champagne method sparkling wine, and is one of the leaders in the industry in quality and sustainability since its inception.

Over the past four decades, Graham Beck has continued to establish a key position in the global market, garnering recognition as the leading producer of Cap Classique locally and in the United Kingdom and the United States. Today, Graham Beck is available in more than 40 countries, with Cap Classique becoming a comparable alternative to Champagne and offering a solid competitive price point to the likes of Prosecco, Cava, and Sekt.

Image Supplied: Graham Beck Winelands

The House’s consistent passion and dedication to mastery have resulted in various awards and accolades over the years. Graham Beck NV Brut was chosen as the celebratory beverage at the election of the first democratically elected president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and the sparkling wine that was poured for Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in 2008. The 2009 Blanc de Blancs won the trophy for best sparkling wine in the world at the International Wine & Spirit Competition.

In a recent highlight, the Graham Beck Cuvée Clive was named 'Sparkling Wine of the Year' for the fifth time in Tim Atkin's 2023 South African Report. Adding to these achievements, the 2009 Extra Brut 157 was honoured as the 'Sparkling Wine Discovery of the Year.' Further testament to Graham Beck's commitment to excellence, the Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2018 and Extra Brut 157 have been recently awarded the prestigious 5-star rating in the 2024 Platters by Diners Club Wine Guide. This accolade speaks to the quality and consistency of these exceptional wines.

Graham Beck’s Cellar Master Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira shares with GLAMOUR his journey to wine producing and maintaining the consistent House style for which Graham Beck is renowned.

Pieter Ferreira

GLAMOUR: How did you get started in the wine making industry?

PIETER FERREIRA: I had the opportunity to start my first career in winemaking in 1984 when I joined Achim von Arnim at the then Clos Cabriere (The House of Pierre Jourdan) in Franschhoek – This was the first specialist Cap Classique producer and solely dedicated cellar for Cap Classique. During these magical seven years I was also afforded the opportunity to work as an intern in Champagne during their harvest.

GLAMOUR: Please tell us a little about your journey to Graham Beck and what do you enjoy the most about being part of the winery?

PF: I joined the Beck-family in August 1990 and the legacy continues and our journey – in pursuit of the perfect bubble is on track. What I love being part of the winery - I love family values, it really makes one feel like it is your own. The pure enthusiasm and passion of being a specialist in one’s field is a key driver and the enjoyment. It is not a job, it is a way of life!

GLAMOUR: Graham Beck is celebrating 40 years of making wine, what do you think contributed to the brand's longevity?

PF: There are many factors that have contributed and still will in future, but the loyal dedication of its people and their determination, passion, enthusiasm and agility has made the brand proud.

It’s also about the consistency and continuity of the house style that has maintained us as a leader in the category. 40 Years sounds like a life-time but in the wine-world it is a short period. There is still so much we need to achieve and there is no destination – it remains a journey.

GLAMOUR: What has surprised you about being a winemaker?

PF: Realising that this is not a day job but actually a way of life! Another rewarding thing is the camaraderie within the industry – the willingness of sharing knowledge and learning through incredible technical tastings.

GLAMOUR: What goals in winemaking are you working to achieve?

PF: Well ‘in pursuit of the perfect bubble’ remains my main driver and key focus. However, we keep finding better vineyard material and new sites in the Cape Winelands, that would allow us to express more specific terroir principles and characteristics in Cap Classique.

GLAMOUR: What is one of your favourite varieties to work with and why?

PF: Chardonnay for sure. This is such a versatile grape that can express characteristics in so many styles. It is the king of white grapes and famous in our Robertson region.

GLAMOUR: What’s the biggest myth about drinking Cap Classique ?

PF: People think that Cap Classique is only enjoyed as a celebratory drink – ie. Weddings, anniversaries and divorces – and they are wrong. Cap Classique is the most versatile drink with so many various styles emerging. There is one for anytime of the day or night and it is a no brainer when it comes to food and wine pairings. At Graham Beck we say – ‘Celebrate what matters’ – yes, that is what I do every single morning when my feet hit the ground and I know I have made it to another day!

GLAMOUR: Regardless of cost, what makes a good wine?

PF: First of all there is lots of good wine around but let us talk about great wine which cannot happen without a great vineyard.

I know people believe winemakers are magicians but it cannot happen without grapes. The location and positioning of vineyards are the key to great wine.

GLAMOUR: What is one of the hardest things about winemaking year in and year out?

PF: In the world of ‘bubbles’ Cap Classique is the art of consistency and continuity. Having such a variety of base wine after harvest and tasting them over and over is tough.

GLAMOUR: Any wine making tips for those just getting into winemaking or interested in studying wine?

PF: I see it more and more and it is clear that as a winemaker you cannot be everything to everyone. Try in your early years to travel the world of wine and learn what your speciality should be and become a specialist in your field. Remember knowledge is power, and live to learn but it’s equally important to learn to live!

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