The Secret of Whole Bunch Pressing for Cap Classique

I am convinced that gentle handling of the grapes and then whole bunch pressing of the grapes to produce base wines for Cap Classique is the crucial catalyst in producing Cap Classique with an even a finer bubble….. watch this video and see the difference bewtween quality and press fractions. This makes the process of Cap Classique so interesting.

Looking at base wine during fermentation

During fermentation it is extremely crucial taht we know how well our yeasts are doing. It gives us the opportunity to be pro-active and we can start to form some ideas of how these individual base wines develop and where they will eventually end upin – in which of our Cap Classiques. Notice that colour is never a issue as we produce a wide portfolio and we find a home for all of the base wines. We taste at least once a week and study the rate of fermentation at least twice a day. Enjoy the little video link! Harvest 2012 at Graham Beck Robertson!

The Journey of the Whole Bunch Chardonnay Grape

A facinating journey of the Chardonnay grape from been picked until it is in juice form. Harvest 2012 at Graham Beck in Robertson. Part of the picking for Chardonnay for our range of Cap Classique base wines.

Harvest 2012 – News I


Graham Beck Wines Harvest 2012 – News I

This is the first bit of news from the ‘dream team’ in Robertson. Most of you know by now that harvest 2012 started on Thursday 12th January. It is approximately a week later than last year. Very challenging weather that we have experience since we have started – but we do love challenges! More than ever, we believe in 2012 will be a great year for the quality of our base wines which proudly make our finest range of Cap Classique’s.

This year we have two young aspirant winemakers in the making: Carel van der Merwe from Elsenburg (middle) and Jaco van der Watt, previous harvest at Cederberg (right) and we are very fortunate to have Julie Breuzon all the way from Champagne – “Our secret weapon” (left in picture). She currently works for Champagne Piaff. Julie will be here only for the base wine harvesting and then goes back to Champagne. Carel and Jaco will see the harvest through with us!


Then as always we need extra cellar hands and see the return for some of our regulars and some new faces. Our four cellar hands this year are: From the left: Adriaan Erasmus, Grenville Kuhn, Lionel Siljeur and Narschel Baadjies. Later this month we will host two Burgundy Exchange students – looking forward receiving them. Hopefully later in the year we can send some of our cellar members to France on the exchange program. We wish all of the newcomers a happy stay and a good harvest. Remember you are part of the “Dream Team”

We had our colourful Harvest Parade on Wednesday 18th January and were very fortunate to have Mrs Rhona Beck here for the Parade. As it is our 21st year in Robertson her presence made it extra special for all of us. In the procession we had some of our local community members partaking. Mrs Rhona Beck thanked everyone involved and wished all the workers a great harvest and thanked them for their loyalty and hard work.



As usual Pieter Fouche blessed the first load and handed it over to the cellar team. This year sees the changes to the grape receival area which promisses to make the harvest quicker. Many thanks to Louis Jordaan for driving this projest. Benna Smal is already impressed about the ease of flow in this area!



2011 Southern Hemisphere Harvest Report: Part I, II & III

2011 Southern Hemisphere Harvest Report: Part 1

A first look at vintage quality in Australia and New Zealand, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers
Posted: June 1, 2011


Vineyards in the U.S. and Europe are just flowering, but there’s juice fermenting in the tanks down south, in the Southern Hemisphere, that is. This year, Mother Nature brought wet weather to both New Zealand and Australia, forcing vintners to fight off rot. In Australia, where some regions faced heavy flooding, cool weather meant long hang times, ripe tannins and lower than normal alcohol levels in the country’s big reds. In New Zealand, temperatures were warmer than average, which meant a constant struggle against mildew and botrytis. Winemakers in both countries report lower yields, but good quality fruit.

Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming vintage. Check back tomorrow and Friday for reports from Argentina, Chile and South Africa.


Vintners in some of Australia’s key growing regions, including Barossa, McLaren Vale and Victoria, are reporting that they picked their grapes at low sugar levels this harvest. The wines could have some of the lowest alcohol levels in years, resulting in a very different style from southeast Australia’s typically rich, full-bodied reds, especially in Barossa and McLaren Vale.

The growing season was marked by cool, wet conditions. This delayed harvest, allowing the grapes to hang on the vines and develop their flavors. “Harvest sugar levels were moderate to low, but flavor, tannins and seed ripeness were good because of increased hang time,” said Stuart Bourne, who completed his final harvest at Barossa Valley Estate this year. (He’s moving on to Chateau Tanunda.)

The season started well, with winter and spring rains that helped canopy development and increased vigor in the vines. Summer was mild and sunny with some rain and plenty of warm days in January. But the wet weather returned in February and March as harvest commenced. “The 2011 vintage in South Australia, and indeed most of the southeast of the country, will be remembered as a challenging one,” said Louisa Rose, chief winemaker at Yalumba.

While the rain helped alleviate a prolonged drought in the region, the wet conditions and humidity increased the risk of downy and powdery mildew. Botrytis also became an issue. Vineyard management was imperative, with vintners spraying their vines and thinning the canopies to allow more airflow to protect against rot. “It was definitely a year for diligence in the vineyard, and many blocks were hand-picked because bunch and berry selection was required,” said Chester Osborn ofD’Arenberg, in McLaren Vale.


A winery worker helps as Chardonnay grapes tumble into a press at Petaluma wines.

Vintners in McLaren Vale reported a late start to the vintage with rain during the ripening period, which increased disease pressure among the vines. But the region’s geography—it borders the Gulf of St. Vincent on one side and the Sellicks Hill Range to the south, creating a natural funnel for strong winds from across the water—helped in drying out the vineyards. Yields will be down, and fruit quality was variable, but vintners are happy overall.

Farther north in Barossa, growers had to deal with botrytis as the sugar levels in their grapes started to rise. Some vineyards were too infected and were not picked. But those that survived were high quality. Matt Wenk, winemaker at Two Hands Wines, reports a strong Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon crop this year. “In general, from what I have seen, the wines from 2011 will be subtle with great aromatics and elegant structures,” he said.

The story is similar in Clare Valley and in the Limestone Coast region to the south, with vintners reporting smaller yields of good quality fruit. Bruce Clugston of Wineinc, which produces several wines from South Australia, estimates that statewide the volumes could be down 30 to 40 percent.

To the east, Victoria experienced record rainfall in 2011. Floods hit regions in the western part of the state, including Great Western and Pyrenees, with some vineyards wiped out by the high waters. Fortunately dry periods in March and April helped ripen the grapes in undamaged vineyards, allowing vintners to pick under sunny skies. In Yarra Valley, Steve Flamsteed, winemaker at Innocent Bystander and Giant Steps, says that his Chardonnay is showing minerality, acidity and good flavor at lower sugar levels, while the Pinot Noir is highly perfumed.

Western Australian winemakers will have far brighter memories of 2011. Margaret River vintners enjoyed warm and dry conditions. “The winter rains stopped in September and very little fell after that, making it a magnificent growing season,” said Vanya Cullen of Cullen wines. It was an early harvest for the white grapes with vintners picking in February and early March in above average temperatures.

Augustus Weed

New Zealand

New Zealand’s vintners will remember 2011 as the year a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch on the South Island. It was the worst natural disaster the country has ever experienced. While that region continues to recover from the damage, the country’s wine industry was largely unharmed. This growing season was slightly soggy, with warmer temperatures and more humidity than normal, but vintners are hopeful that extra work in the vineyards saved the vintage.

Some vintners in Marlborough reported a late budbreak, but a subsequent warm spell led to an early flowering. “The period from budbreak to flowering was the shortest of the last six vintages, which shows that it was warm,” said Brian Bicknell of Mahi Wines in Marlborough.

Blair Walter of Felton Road in the Central Otago region says a fast, successful flowering produced solid crops across all varieties. “We were relieved to see things cool down in January, which set the pattern for a cool and wetter midseason,” said Walter. Central Otago rarely sees much rain, however, so Walter said a wetter season there is still fairly dry.

The North Island received plenty of rain and high humidity too, according to Michael Brajkovich of Kumeu River. “The extra moisture caused bunch-rot problems, but not botrytis. We use a team of 70 hand-pickers, and they had to work particularly hard to triage rotten berries,” said Brajkovich.


Fresh picked clusters of Pinot Noir arrive at New Zealand’s Amisfeld.

Yields are a sensitive issue with New Zealand winemakers. Since the 2008 vintage—when volumes exceeded expectations and there was a surplus of grapes—growers have lived by self-imposed crop restrictions, and are more attentive to pruning and thinning. Early estimates projected a bumper crop in 2011, but most vintners reported average yields once harvest arrived.

Bicknell said yields were down in Marlborough due to aggressive pruning. “Growers were pruning to lower bud numbers, which have been so great for the quality of the fruit,” he said. “We are all aware that it is a waste of time putting down too many canes and then having to go through and green harvest a lot of fruit.” Other vintners reported that despite early signs of high yields, by the time they cut fruit to avoid bunch rot and other problems, yields ended up lower than average.

Harvest was slightly earlier than 2010, but not significantly. Most growers reported warm harvest temperatures, ripening grapes quickly and condensing the picking period. Some rains threatened the end of harvest, which meant possible rot for those that didn’t pick early. Most vintners in Marlborough reported they had finished when the rains hit in mid-April.

The wines are expected to be clean and intense, and the earlier picking probably resulting in lower alcohols, particularly with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. “Our wines are always more complex in cooler and more challenging growing seasons,” said Walter. “We have our fingers crossed that the early positive impressions of 2011 are accurate. I don’t think concentration will be a word that will be used to describe [the wines]: words more like precision, mineral, tension. I think the wines will have reasonably firm structures and a pleasant kind of rusticity about them: more complex and European.”

—MaryAnn Worobiec

2011 Southern Hemisphere Harvest Report: Part 2

A first look at vintage quality in Argentina and Chile, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers
Posted: June 2, 2011


Vineyards in the U.S. and Europe are just flowering, but there’s juice fermenting in the tanks down south, in the Southern Hemisphere, that is. The 2010-2011 growing season was cool and cloudy in South America. An early frost lowered yields in Argentina, and wet weather made February a nerve-wracking month. On the other side of the Andes, Chilean winemakers just hoped the grapes could hang on the vine long enough to ripen.

Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming vintage. Check out Wednesday’s report on Australia and New Zealand and check back Friday for reports from South Africa.


An early, severe frost in Mendoza, Argentina’s leading wine region, set the tone for a challenging 2011 vintage for winemakers, who also had to battle periods of high winds, hail, drought and heavy rain. Cool temperatures throughout the season delayed maturation, but an Indian summer ripened grapes before harvest. Winemakers are expecting elegantly styled wines, with higher acidity levels than usual.

“Alcohol levels are between 0.1 and 0.2 percent higher than normal,” said Luis Reginato, vineyard director for Bodega Catena Zapata. “The reason is the extra dry March and April that we had. What is remarkable is the high acidity in 2011 compared with normal vintages.”

Santiago Achával, president of Achával-Ferrer, said the early frost, which hit the second week of November, was the worst of its kind since 1992 and caused vines to lose flowers and experience poor fruit set. Damage was intermittent, with Western Mendoza and Uco Valley to the south being hit the hardest.

According to Laura Catena, president of Catena Zapata, the frost spared Catena’s La Pirámide vineyard in Agrelo, while the Angélica Sur vineyard located in the Uco Valley lost the fruit in 288 of its 360 acres. José Manuel Ortega, owner of Bodegas y Viñedos of O. Fournier in the Uco Valley, said he lost crop in 60 percent of his 312 acres of vineyards.

After the frost, cool, dry weather persisted through February, with droughtlike conditions exacerbated by a dry winter in 2010, which meant limited snowmelt for irrigation. Rain finally arrived at the end of February but then it continued into the first week of March. Some winemakers were predicting a washout. Luckily the weather finally turned for the better, with plenty of sunny days lasting through April.


Picking grapes in Mendoza for Bodega Norton.

“Actually, throughout Mendoza this could be a banner year. Yields were naturally lowered by the November frost,” said Achával, who says his vineyards required less green harvesting than normal.

In the northern Salta province, Bodega Colomé winemaker Randle Johnson said there was warm weather from November to January, but, “in February the heavens opened and there was hardly a sunny day. A lot of rain from one end of the valley to the other.” Johnson said Bodega Colomé received 12 to 14 inches of rain, nearly triple the typical amount.

Hail also hit one high-elevation vineyard, damaging both leaves and fruit. Salta also enjoyed an Indian summer, but wineries needed to carefully sort harvested grapes to maintain quality.

In the southern Patagonia region, Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, who makes the country’s top-rated Pinot Noir bottlings at his Bodega Chacra estate, reported mild summer conditions followed by warmer weather leading into harvest. “Overall for Pinot a great vintage,” he said of his healthy crop. “Our ripeness was good, with no pests or other problems in the vineyard. Our pH levels are high and alcohol quite low, but still higher than the previous vintage.”

—Nathan Wesley


After a long, slow harvest that stretched well into May, Chilean vintners are growing increasingly optimistic about their 2011 wines. A small crop ripened steadily and evenly during a markedly cool growing season in most of Chile’s major wine regions.

“We had a cold and long spring, summer started late and toward the end of the summer we had some rain, but nothing that I was concerned about,” said Sven Bruchfeld, owner and winemaker at the boutique Agricola La Viña, located in the western end of the Colchagua Valley. The cool weather led to a poor fruit set. “Yields were down 22 percent.”

Pedro Parra, of Clos des Fous said it was a cloudy year, but grapes in good areas were able to gradually ripen. “The late ripening varieties on bad terroirs will suffer,” he said. “I am happier with the fruit from the coastal areas and those closer to the Andes [as opposed to the middle of the valleys].”


Fresh-picked grapes await their ride back to Concha Y Toro’s winery.

With the cooler temperatures during the season, many producers reported lower alcohols as well. “We’re seeing Sauvignon Blanc ripe at 11 or 11.5 [potential degrees of alcohol] as opposed to 12 or 12.5,” said Adolfo Hurtado, winemaker at Viña Cono Sur, a top Pinot Noir producer located in the Casablanca Valley. “The ripeness is there, so we’re confident in the quality. We like the aromas and the freshness we’re seeing in the wines.”

Despite the cooler season, grapes came in healthy and clean, thanks to the lower yields, which produced grapes with good concentration, color and fresh acidity. “The 2011 harvest has been a little strange, but not so different than 2010,” says Aurelio Montes, founder and head winemaker at Viña Montes, one of the country’s top producers. “In general, pHs are lower and alcohol levels are in better balance.”

“With the freshness, obviously 2011 will be an elegant year,” said Patrick Valette, winemaker at Viña Neyen de Apalta.

But 2011’s small crop is likely to have some economic effect on the industry. Following the earthquake in February 2010 that destroyed 125 million liters of wines and then a small 2010 crop, many growers say that price pressure for grapes is already on the rise.

“Those wineries that have been selling at a very low price will have trouble with cash flow,” said Montes. “If you add the weakness of the dollar, the increase in energy costs and labor, my feeling is that Chilean wine prices will have to [increase].”

“With the Chilean economy booming on the mining side, there’s been a labor shortage [for wineries]. So harvest logistics were more difficult than in the past,” said Ed Flaherty, winemaker at Viña Tarapacá, located in the Maipo Valley.

It’s hard to be too pessimistic with good fruit in. “Overall, 2011 is a good to great vintage, depending on the variety,” said Flaherty.

—James Molesworth

2011 Southern Hemisphere Harvest Report: Part 3

A first look at vintage quality in South Africa, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers
Posted: June 3, 2011


Vineyards in the U.S. and Europe are just flowering, but there’s juice fermenting in the tanks down south, in the Southern Hemisphere, that is. Variety is the spice of life, but South African winemakers may be cursing it. South Africa’s top wine regions produced dramatically different results this growing season, especially between hot, dry inland areas and cooler coastal zones.

Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming vintage. For more 2011 Southern Hemisphere coverage, see our reports on Australia, New Zealand,Argentina and Chile.

South Africa

South African vintners are happy overall with potential quality following the recent 2011 harvest. But grape quality and yields varied tremendously from area to area, and even within individual estates. “One thing is for sure,” said Peter Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson, a top Pinot Noir producer located in the Walker Bay district. “You will receive very conflicting reports from around the Cape for vintage 2011.”

The one consistent factor in 2011 was the timing of the season, which ran several weeks early. “The harvest was early and it was very fast too,” said Luke O’Cuinneagain, winemaker at Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch. “We managed to get some blocks in that were riper at lower sugar levels, but it did require intensive sorting as Cabernet Sauvignon in particular had a lot of green, shot berries. Overall, quantity was the same but there were variations—Chardonnay was down, Merlot was up, Petit Verdot was down, etc.”

Following a warmer-than-usual winter, vines developed buds early. Windy conditions during flowering produced an irregular crop set. Steady rain fell through the early part of the season, but by mid-January the weather turned warm and dry, resulting in a disease-free growing season. “We do natural fermentations, and the health of the vineyards helped give us very strong [yeast] cultures this year,” said Andrea Mullineux of Mullineux Vineyards in the Voor-Paardeberg ward, which specializes in Syrah and Chenin Blanc and Rhône varieties. “The fermentations cruised through to dryness.”

The dry weather reduced yields even more. “Berry size was very low as we received almost no rain during the growing season. Yields were down 20 percent,” said José Condé of Stark-Condé, located in the Jonkershoek Valley ward. “Once we hit veraison, the crop was so light and the vines in good shape that ripening just blasted through. The biggest challenge was the Bordeaux varieties, so I do expect careful barrel selections with Merlot and Cabernet.”


Conditions were hot and dry during harvest at Ken Forrester Vineyards in Stellenbosch.

The problem for the Bordeaux varieties was sugars developing before tannins. “With the lack of cool nights, we had rapid sugar load that resulted in higher alcohols and tough tannins. Tannin management will be key for the reds,” said Miles Mossop, winemaker at both Stellenbosch’s Tokara as well as his eponymous label.

While Bordeaux varieties struggled, other varieties, including Syrah and Chenin Blanc, seemed to relish the growing season. “Both came in early, with lots of flavor concentration and good color,” said Christophe Durand of Vins d’Orrance, a top boutique producer.

While the inland areas dealt with the difficulties of the hot and dry season, the cooler coastal areas naturally offset those conditions, and whites from those areas performed well. “It was a season that really seems to suit us best,” said Duncan Savage of Cape Point Vineyards, a top Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon producer located on the Cape Point peninsula. “The vineyard blocks with a bit of clay in the soil profile performed best of all [as they retained water better] with wonderful structure and intensity in the wines.”

“It shows on the nose of the Sauvignon Blanc that we get from Darling [a cool, costal area],” said Anthony de Jager, winemaker at Fairview, who echoed Savage’s thoughts. “The whites are more tropical than spicy and green, with nice rich mouthfeel.”

—James Molesworth

Champagne 2011 harvest could be earliest since 2003

  • Friday 10 June 2011 by Giles Fallowfield

August holidays have been cancelled in Champagne in anticipation of a very early harvest, possibly the earliest on record – especially if the warm weather of March to the end of May continues.


Flowering was generally completed before the end of May and in some places the vines were in full flower by 21 May.

Adding 92 days – the average time over the past decade in Champagne between flowering and the start of the harvest—picking could start on 22 August.

However because August is usually warmer and has more sun than September, it is possible the period between flowering may be even shorter, at just 80 days, which means the first grapes may be cut on August 16.

The lack of rain also tends to accelerate the date, Louis Roedererwinemaker Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon said, adding that he ‘would be ready to start from August’.

Didier Mariotti, winemaker at GH Mumm, said he would also be ready to start on 16 August – or earlier : ‘Based on our model of 80 days [from flowering to harvest] with Chardonnay we could start as early as August 11.’

Dominique Moncomble, director of technical services at Champagne trade council the CIVC said flowering has taken place around three weeks in advance of the average in Champagne and was especially early in the Côte des Blancs.

The earliest harvest on record came in the ‘heatwave summer’ of 2003 when the secateurs were out in the Côte des Bar village of Bligny, in the southernmost part of the appellation, on August 18 and many producers had completed harvesting before the end of August.

This was partly because picking didn’t last the usual two weeks as severe frosts had decimated the crop.

Berry sorting – Harvest 2011

This is a short video of grape/berry sorting Cabernet Franc at our Franschhoek winery of Graham Beck. After a gentle destalking the whole berries travels over a vibrating table to shake down the raisins through a perforated sieve and then the berries travel on a conveyor where any green and broken berries are removed. Then the berries falls into a satellite bins and transfered to the fermenter.

Graham Beck Wines – 2010 Harvest Report

With soccer mania building to a fever pitch around the country Graham Beck Wines has naturally been imbued with the infectious spirit of the impending World Cup. So it’s no surprise then that the team dubbed Harvest 2010 “Operation Ayoba”! You’re bound to hear this exuberant expression echoing throughout the stadium during football matches when a goal is scored. And, perhaps, around the cellar when a particularly good parcel of fruit comes in!

Harvest time is, in fact, much like a game of football, requiring precision timing, match tactics, dexterity, sound strategy, adequate warming up, sufficient preparation, deft obstacle dodging and some fiercely fancy footwork! It’s a time of year that tests every member of the team to their limits, requiring long hours, meticulous attention to detail and more than a few sacrifices along the way! Fortunately the hard work has paid off and we’ve got some stunners in the cellar which we can’t wait to share with you. Laduuuuuuuma!

On your marks, get set…go!

Kick-off this year was on 12 January, while the last grapes were received on Thursday, 25 March. “This means we were on the go for a solid 11 weeks from the first day of harvest to the last,” comments Graham Beck Wines cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira. The total number of actual days harvested was 47 – a much shorter harvest then, but more compact and naturally far busier. Total tons brought into the Robertson cellar was 2 066, while the Franschhoek cellar took in a total of 1 088 tons. At our Robertson Cellar most of the pressing this year was completed before the Easter Weekend – a first for us!

 A word from our weatherman

It’s a well known fact in vineyard management and winemaking that all the gadgets, gizmos, planning and prep work one has stashed in your arsenal don’t stand a chance against the vagaries of Mother Nature. This year’s weather conditions once again put us to the test on more than one occasion. Fortunately, however, the Graham Beck Wines team is adroit at ‘rolling with the punches’ as viticulturist Marco Ventrella explains.

At times the weather had us all as baffled as Adam on Mother’s Day! “El Niño played a starring role for vintage 2010 in South Africa with a cold wet winter and a colder than expected start to spring. This resulted in budbreak occurring two weeks earlier than usual, however the cool September temperatures also delayed shoot growth,” explains Marco.

 Although downy mildew outbreaks were common throughout the wine regions, a combination of good luck and sound planning ensured that crop losses were minimal, although mildew spores were regularly seen on the tops of the young shoots. “Our weather stations paid for themselves ten times over this season, as the vineyard spray programmes could be planned in advance of any cold fronts that seemed to hit the Cape with monotonous regularity,” reports Marco.

 Early summer canopy management was vital due to predicted wind speeds. In the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek areas phenomenal wind damage wreaked havoc in the vineyards. “The September and October wind speeds were almost double the average for the summer months and this delayed early vineyard growth,” says Marco.

 The wild and windy conditions then gave way to a summer of searing heat and drought in the Western Cape with almost no rain from December through to mid-February. Heat waves buffeted the Cape from 2nd January and the mercury soared. This resulted in a harvest characterized by plenty of ‘hurry up and wait’! We experienced ‘stop start’ ripening that had everything in a cultivar or style range ready simultaneously, followed by an agonizing wait for the next run. February delivered a few scorchers as well. “Never a dull moment and challenging to be sure! Thanks El Niño…but hold the hot sauce!” concludes Marco.

 Something stellar in the cellar!

Despite the best efforts of the elements to outplay us with a few sneaky curveballs and cunning conundrums the winemaking team is more than chuffed with the overall fruit quality this year.

 White wine winners…

“Regardless of all the external factors the fruit quality has been exceptional,” affirms Pieter. “We are thrilled with the fresh fruity Chardonnays with tons of minerality and Pinot Noirs with lovely strawberry, cherry structure for the base wines, while the Sauvignon Blancs showed good concentration and complexity,” he reports. Erika Obermeyer our Franschhoek winemaker and self confessed Sauvignon devotee agrees: “At this stage the Sauvignon Blanc may just be on par with our champion vintage of 2007, but we wouldn’t want to let the cat out of the bag just yet,” she quips.

The Sauvignon Blanc in general and especially those portions destined for Pheasants’ Run received an enthusiastic thumbs-up from Erika. “The juice I tasted during harvest was really remarkable,” she recalls. Cool ripening conditions and sufficient sun exposure resulted in fantastic flavour profiles for this cultivar. “I’m almost more excited about these delicious flavours than I was for the fantastic Sauvignons of 2009. Pheasants’ Run 2010 is going to knock your socks off,” she maintains.

 Still on the white side, the Viognier proved to be “a maniac” with sudden spurts of ripening resulting in a frantic “all hands on deck” situation during the picking period. Chenin Blanc also toyed with the team’s emotions, with a few ‘feminine wiles’ coming to the fore in those frustrating episodes where this cultivar said both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at the same time! Fortunately the Chenin redeemed itself by expressing great complexity and freshness of character. “In fact the Chardonnay (at slightly lower alcohols than previous harvests), Viognier and Chenin Blanc have all proved to be true to their varietal characteristics and promise to produce some gorgeous wines,” confides Pieter.

 Ravishing reds…

The reds were not to be outdone and 2010 shows all the signs of being a particularly good vintage for Graham Beck Wines. “We believe it’s going to be a great year for our reds, despite a few nerve wracking moments in the cellar,” comments our Robertson winemaker Irene Waller. “There were stages in the final ripening that the reds threatened to roll in like a motorcycle gang fresh from a rally, brimming with bravado and testosterone, to take over the cellars en mass. All the while we nervously eyed the sky as weather bulletins were predicting rain and possible flash floods in some areas in the last week of February,” she recalls.

 In Franschhoek, too, the intense heat accelerated the ripening of almost every block of red and Erika reports it was the first time in her 11 years of winemaking that she was able to harvest everything within two weeks. This of course caused consternation in the cellar and fermentation space became more sought after than white gold! The new sorting table in the red wine cellar also afforded the team an opportunity for even more rigorous and meticulous berry selection – adding a whole new dimension to the wines. Shiraz and Cab in particular show great promise this year…expect some lip-smacking moments with these beauties!

 Overall the reds are looking radiant with great depth of colour and bright upfront fruit. The tannins are gentle and far more aligned with the rest of the fruit and structure, which will ensure a mouthfeel that is wonderfully rich, yet elegant and refined.

Blissful bubblies…

Robertson remains the stalwart on the base wine front for our Cap Classique production, proving just how well suited this region’s terroir is for the cultivation of these varieties.

 Notes from the trenches include this one from Pieter penned during the height of harvest mania: “Just to let you know that we are all still alive and well and that the ‘Bubbly Grapes’ are finally just about all harvested. After today we are very, very close to 1 000 tons. Bloody brilliant! We are happy that the grapes, after what is considered to be a difficult season, have arrived in a pristine and healthy condition! By Wednesday 3rd February we should have all the grapes in for our Cap Classiques. After the weekend 50% of the base wines will be fermented dry and we can get a good idea of where we are in terms of taste profiles for our various styles. We are constantly monitoring the progress of fermentation and will report then… over and out!”

 Subsequent missives during this year’s rather challenging ‘pars’ were equally ebullient…it appears, true to form, that we’re in for some top notch Cap Classiques.

 Many hands make light work

At Graham Beck Wines we understand the pivotal role that teamwork and strong morale plays in a successful harvest. This year proved to be no exception with both our Franschhoek and Robertson teams showing remarkable passion and commitment under particularly trying conditions. “The vineyard and cellar ‘spanne’ were fantastic with their effort and dedication,” says Pieter proudly.

Irene reports: “The harvest interns we had this year must be the best to date. Elisma, Pierre and Praisy managed the night harvesting with aplomb but were understandably relieved to go back to normal hours. Despite becoming a father for the third time early into harvest Lusanda spent most weekends in the cellar doing his bit. Our casuals Flip, Chris, Stiaan and Mias gave endless support to Benna especially on weekends when pumpovers were required at odd hours.”

“Overall morale was tremendous and everyone is extremely proud of Ayoba 2010,” agrees Pieter. This year a four-legged, wet-nosed team mascot joined the gang in the form of Erika’s new German Pointer puppy, named Milla.

Keeping our eye on the ball

In conclusion here are a few general observations from our exhausted, but elated team…

 Erika: “It was without doubt a tricky harvest with plenty of long hours. But after tasting the wines in the fermentation tanks I can happily say it was worth every drop of sweat. If I had to compare it to a previous vintage I’d say it appears very similar to 2007. Soft tannins, excellent fruit and most likely one of the top vintages I’ve had the privilege of being part of.”

Irene: “I can’t wait to share a glass of 2010 Graham Beck with you!”

Marco: “Mmmm. Yum!

Pieter: “Only time will tell how the 2010 vintage pans out, but all indicators at this stage point to a blockbuster year – truly one for the books.”

 Ayoba, ayoba!

Well, the final whistle may have blown on harvest 2010, but the teams are still hard at work fine tuning their moves and upping their game. Winemaking is a continual process of refinement, evolution and enrichment and at Graham Beck Wines we’re more than up to the challenge. So, blow those vuvuzelas as we celebrate yet another vintage with vooma!

 Cheers from Graham Beck Wines

Hands on Harvest at Graham Beck Wines, Robertson

The Robertson Wine Valley is proud to host its second Hands-on-Harvest festival. The boutique event will take place 26th February 2010 and offers wine aficionados and budding vintners a chance to experience the magic of harvest for a day – without having to quit their day jobs!

HOSTS: Winemaker Irene Waller, Viticulturist Marco Ventrella.


Arrive at Graham Beck Wines’ Robertson Cellar just before 08h00 with your rough work clothes and closed shoes – dress lightly and bring a hat. Join Marco and the Graham Beck picking team in the vineyard. See what back-breaking work it is to cut grapes and carry a full basket to the waiting trailer. Take a quick break for a well earned breakfast, then crush and destem your grapes and start the fermentation of your own juice – guided by Irene, our Robertson Winemaker. After tasting the progress of other ferments in the winery, retire for a light lunch with a glass or two of Graham Beck Wines and bubblies to celebrate your maiden vintage harvest experience.

For more information and bookings contact:

Tel, 021 974 1258


With Harvest ’07 just around the corner, we asked our cellar and vineyard teams for a few early predictions. Judging from this year’s conditions it appears we’re on track for a great harvest 2007. Here’s hoping Mother Nature plays along!

“It may be a bit early for crystal ball gazing when it comes to harvest predictions! But we’ve witnessed some pretty encouraging indicators, such as relatively even bud burst followed by a strong growth, due to a fantastic wet winter,” says Graham Beck Wines Cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira.

“We haven’t started irrigating on our Robertson property yet, due to near perfect soil moisture levels. We have experienced some shoot damage in both Robertson and Franschhoek due to strong winds in October,” adds our viticulturist Marco Ventrella.

There has been relatively even flowering of the early cultivars for a change and we predict that Franschhoek will be even earlier than before. “Initial bunch counts indicate a normal size harvest, unlike the 2006 harvest. The harvest potential of our Firgrove vineyards appears much better as there was far less wind during the flowering period, especially with the Cabernet Sauvignon,” says Pieter.

A few pesky creepy crawlies have ‘bugged’ us if you’ll excuse the pun! In Robertson pests, such as snails (prone to making an appearance in wet soil conditions) are a BIG headache this year. Unusual pests such as caterpillars have also proven problematic in Franschhoek. Disease pressure is quite high, but normal preventative programs are sufficient at this stage and we continue to receive valuable data from our weather stations.

“Our farming teams are really proving their mettle. Their dedication and enthusiasm are very encouraging and we are all extremely excited at what the future holds! Once we’ve done our bunch counts we’ll let you have an update. Here’s to a GREAT 2007 harvest!” says Pieter.