Graham Beck Harvest News IV

The importance of barrel inspection.

If you have ever seen Pierre or one of the cellar guys sticking their nose into a open or new barrel you might wonder why? Since it is a product so important to your wines, you should inspect the inside of every new and used barrel you purchase and before you fill it. It is an inspection of the inside of a new barrel by the winemaker and his team to make sure that the new barrel conforms to the specifications as to how it was ordered. In other words for a specific wine that will eventually mature in the barrel we have chosen a certain toast level that will eventually part with the oak flavour. This process is made at the stage when the barrels is shaped or form over a open fire at the Cooperage.

So when the barrels arrives with us, there will be a cosmetic inspection of the outside of the barrel to make sure there are no gapping gaps between the staves. This can cause serious leaking when it gets filled. Then Pierre will inspect the inside using a light which he slides through the bung hole which will light up the inside of the barrel. Then he does a few checks: He can judge the toasting level the way it was ordered  (too much or too little) and then check for any mould or off-flavours and if the barrel is clean of any debris. Lastly and most probably the most important that there is no blisters inside the barrel. Blisters is normally caused by excessive heat and causes the wood or stave to split or bursts. This is a risk of contamination as it become a collection point for wine and you can never clean the barrel properly and can spoil when the barrel is empty.
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     Using a light to inspect the inside              inside we inspect for toasting level                What you don’t want is a blister! 

If we are not happy with the cosmetics we can ask the cooperage to repair the barrels and if we are unsatisfied with the toasting or the blisters we can reject the barrel as a whole.


Riverine Rabbit awareness day

On the 15th of October 2013 we held a Riverine Rabbit Awareness Day, a day of information and fun involving practical workshops focused on the Riverine Rabbit and its habitat. We wanted to reach out to the people living in the Langeberg Municipal region and make them aware of the fact that this remarkable and extremely endangered animal might be living in their area, undetected. We also had a goal to raise funds towards the EWT Robertson Riverine Rabbit conservation project. The Riverine Rabbit can be considered South Africa’s most endangered mammal, with the total Northern population estimated at less than 250. Their stable numbers depend solely on the cooperation of private land owners and farmers. In 2006 a second population of the Riverine Rabbit was discovered and has recently been identified as an older population which was separated a long time ago; this group has since been called the Southern Population. This Southern Population is far more vulnerable due to the encroachment and activity of humans in the southern region; which is why The Riverine Rabbit Awareness day in this area was so important.

We do know a lot about the Northern Population, and what the Drylands Conservation Program does to assist land owners with these creatures on their property. This is why we are now stressing the importance of creating similar opportunities for this older, unknown and even more endangered Southern Population in order to save this unique and fascinating species.



Our morning kicked off with some key speakers on the Riverine Rabbit and discussions about the habitat that must be conserved if we are to help the rabbit thrive on our land. Christy Bragg introduced the Drylands Conservation Programme; part of the Endangered Wildlife Trust with the focus on the Riverine Rabbit and its habitat.

Christy also talked about tracking the rabbits with the use of camera trapping, an exciting and effective way to locate and keep track of the numbers of rabbits. Janice Essex, DCP intern, introduced the Riverine Rabbit Project and our Conservation Manager, Mossie Basson, spoke about the vision of The Graham Beck Game Reserve Wine Collection and its place in the efforts to provide awareness and information to the public surrounding The Graham Beck Nature Reserve, as well as our progress in rehabilitating the Riverine Rabbit’s habitat.

The afternoon was fun and practical, with a hide-and-seek-find-the-rabbit exercise and a lesson on how to set up camera traps to photograph any rabbits that might be living in our area.

That evening a fund-raising event for the initiation of a Southern Population conservation project was held in the exclusive hide in The Graham Beck Nature Reserve.

We wish to thank all the partners involved as the day was a wonderful success, creating a network of interest in the Southern Population of The Riverine Rabbit. Not to mention at least three new potential projects which were inspired by the interactions of

the partners.


The Boomslang (Tree Snake)

Truly unique, and so far the only species in it’s genus. Normally not longer than about 160 cm but this one I would place at a whopping 180cm, and definitely a male ( males green with black or blue scales/females normally more brown)

One of the snakes we found in South Africa with excellent eyesight and will move the head from side to side to get a better view. Almost exclusively arboreal and definitely reclusive and will flee from anything too large to eat. Meals will consist of , chameleons, lizards, frogs, birds and bird eggs, small mammals only on special occasions. Famous to hibernate during cool weather and curled up in weaver nests . The birds will make a huge racket  so listen to the birds.

It can open its jaws up to 170 degrees when biting and with hemotoxic as venom will result in blood not able to do clotting process resulting in internal or external bleeding. Venom is slow to act and this result in victims wrongly believe that their injury is not serious.

Only 8 serious human envenomations  by BOOMSLANG occurred between 1919 and 1962  and only 2 which were fatal. All of these cases a direct result of attempting to handle or kill this snake. The message is clear— just watch, take a photo and then walk away.!!!!!  It will inflate its head/neck if cornered and assume the S-Shape pose before striking. In this case leaving ample time for you as human to move away safely and thus unlikely to be a significant source of human fatalities.

South Africa has in the region of 130 types of snakes, although 55% of them are technically venomous only 12 species are considered potentially deadly

The shredded skin of a boomslang is one of the ingredients to make the Polyjuce Potion in J.K.Rowling’s, HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS just to add some use-less information.

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What is Malolactic Fermentation

Basically, malolactic fermentation is a secondary fermentation. It is the process of taking the harsher malic acid in a wine and converting it to a softer lactic acid. Malic acid is the tart acid found in a Granny Smith apple, while lactic acid is the more subtle acid found in milk, butter, cheese and yogurt (and it is the diacetyl derivative of the lactic acid, that shows up as “buttery” in a Chardonnay that has undergone malolactic fermentation). By converting malic acid to lactic acid via Lactobacillus bacteria, you end up with a wine that is more approachable and less abrasive on the palate.

Why Use Malolactic Fermentation?

While malolactic fermentation often happens naturally during the fermentation process, winemakers can determine to allow it to happen or prevent it from happening based on the stylistic results they are shooting for in the bottle. While a wine that has undergone malolactic fermentation is less acidic in nature, the trade off is that it will often have diminished fruit character. Some Chardonnay vintners are processing part of the blend through malolactic fermentation and preventing the remaining part of the blend from going through malolactic fermentation. Then they blend both batches together to retain the fruit character, while keeping the acidity down a bit.

This method has been a successful compromise in many popular Chardonnays where the malic acid lends complexity and the non-malolactic wine contributes solid fruit.

Pronunciation: malow-lack-tick fermentation. Also Known As: ML, MLF, malolactic conversion or just “Malo”.


A sad loss to the racing community

The news that the Highlands Stud (owned by Graham Beck Enterprises) based retired stallion National Assembly had been humanely euthanized at the ripe old age of 30 on Wednesday due to the infirmities of old age, was greeted with sadness. Pensioned in 2008 from stud duties due to declining fertility, National Assembly’s passing brings the curtain down on a remarkable career in the breeding shed, and as a highly successful broodmare sire. National Assembly hailed from the third crop of leading North American sire Danzig, whose own promising career on the track was cut short by a career-ending knee injury. Sent to stud early Danzig made an indelible impression upon the breeding and racing landscape of America. Danzig’s greatest gift to the breeding and racing world was Danehill, who would ultimately go on to surpass his great sire in becoming the most successful sire of all time.                                                                         Image

Sold as a yearling for $2 500,000 at the 1985 Fasig Tipton Saratoga Sale, National Assembly went into training with the legendary Vincent O’Brien, however he suffered a serious injury which put paid to his racing career, and he was sent to Graham Beck’s Highlands stud operation in South Africa, where he was to make a significant impact on the country’s breeding and racing scene. While National Assembly was never crowned champion sire, he did make the list of champion juvenile sires on several occasions. National Assembly possibly saved his greatest until the end, from his second last crop, conceived at the ripe old age of 25, came Soft Falling Rain. Voted Champion colt of 2012, he soared in 2013 with two international Group 2 victories in the Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night, and the Nayef Joel Stakes, and barring any unforeseen injuries, continue to grab headlines.

A Stakes winner over distances from 1200m-1600m, Announce has produced some impressive progeny since he went to stud in 2002. His most notable progeny to date have been Call To Combat, winner of the Wolf Power Handicap (Listed) and now standing alongside his father at Hadlow, the consistently performing filly My Jelly Bean (2nd Gr2 Umkhomazi S and 3rd Gr1 Gold Medallion), and Horatio (Group 3 winner of the Tony Ruffel Stakes and 3rd in the Gr.2 Gauteng Guineas). One thing is certain, National Assembly’s legacy should endure for several generations to come, and it would be a fitting tribute to the great sire if they could achieve what he never could, a slew of sires championships.




Graham Beck Harvest News I

The 24th Harvest in Robertson

Happy New Year for all of you and may 2014 surprise us all and be a fantastic vintage!Generally speaking, by now we would be harvesting this year’s grapes but with all this late rain—could this be a repeat of January 1981? – We ask ourselves.
With the recent rains we have to give nature chance to recover and for the soils to dry out. It has been a very wet start for us this year and we will welcome some warm days and lots of sunshine…. However the Graham Beck’s cellar in Robert-son is more than ready for the 2014 harvest and this will make it Har-vest number 24!.
Here is some notes on the latest conditions and the effect of the rain of this past week from Pieter Fouche—Farm Manager:
Disease pressure has been high but me and my team have been fol-lowing all these elements very
closely. But with the latest rain hopes aren’t that high and mo-rale is fairly low.
In this week we measured more than 180mm of rain on Madeba Farm here in Robertson. If you consider that our long term average for a whole year is less than 250mm….. It makes you ponder.
Points of concern is that the vineyard is very wet and we cannot get into any of the vine-yards to spray and we might get downy mildew on the grapes.
Due to the late rain we also cannot spray our bubbly vine-yard blocks of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as the with-holding period of the chemicals is to long before we need to harvest the grapes. So we are living on knife-edge.
With the amount of rainfall the berries soaks up to much water
and they can burst and will cause botrytis. The action plan is there but we need some sunshine!
Sampling of sugars for ap-proximate harvest dates is on hold until next Monday. Our weather stations are indicating an improvement with moder-ate sunshine over the weeknd…. Bring is on, please! With all the rain our farm roads are in bad condition with lots of eroded areas which makes some of them in-passable. We are waiting for the material to dry before we can attempt to repair and fill all the holes the roads.
On a lighter note one of our drivers yesterday caught him-self two river crabs in one of the Chardonnay vineyard blocks! This all sounds doom and gloom but as you know we have been there before!

Our new Company Values
Towards the end of last year Graham Beck Enterprises shared their new values:
Passion and PrideThere are no half measures. Through our obsession with quality and service- excellence, we bring passion and pride to our business and to our brands.
Go beyondOur business is a place in which everyone is valued and respected; where people are encouraged to think, create and do, and where we are all accountable for delivering our best.
Lookout for othersWe care about the world beyond the gates of our business. With a spirit of generosity, sense of history and family, we work to advance and improve the lives of people in the communities around us.
Tread lightly upon the EarthRespect and care for our planet and natural environment is
deeply embedded in our culture. As a business, it is our duty to do all we can to treasure, preserve and sustain our planet, for future generations.

Play your partSustainable profits are the cornerstone of our business. For the benefit of our employees and shareholders our customers and community, we strive to always run a well-managed, succesful and responsible business.

News on The CWG Protege Programme:
The Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé Pro-gramme was launched in 2006 with the goal of bringing about transformation in the wine industry through cultivating and nurturing winemakers from previously disadvantaged groups to become winemakers of excellence. It is the long-term vision that some of these Proté-gés could in time be invited to become members of the Cape Winemakers Guild.
Through the Protégé Programme passionate young winemakers have the opportunity to hone their skills and knowledge under the guidance of some of the country’s top winemakers. The Protégé Programme comprises a 3 year internship and only final third and fourth year students who have studied Viticulture and Oenology at either the University of Stellenbosch or Elsenburg Agri-cultural College can apply for Pro-gramme.
Some objectives:
To expose the young winemakers to a wide range of wineries, wine types, roles in the winery and skills for a winemaker through a paid internship over three years.
To prepare young winemakers of colour for a career in winemaking through facilitating interactions and networks within the industry.
Focus on Philani Shongwe – our CWG Protege:
Philani is in his final year of internship in the CWG Protégé Programme and will spend it with us in Robertson. More on him. Philani Ngcebo Shongwe graduated in 2011 from the University of Stellenbosch and got his first job as an intern at Groot Constantia.In the same year he did his first harvest overseas at Ansitz Waldgries, South Tyrol in Italy – where he fell in love with the Legrein (no it is not his girlfriend but it is a grape similar to Shiraz). When he re-turned home he joined the CWG Protégé Programme. He did his first year at Paul Cluver, Elgin in 2012. In 2013 he went back to Groot Constantia where he made his first wine “The Passport” which is a 100% Shiraz.
This year he has joined the Graham Beck Wine-Team and is excited and looking forward to ‘play’ with bubbles and learn all the intrinsics from a passionate team.In 2013 Philani attended the Michael Fridjhon Wine Academy for a wine judging course to enhance his wine tast-ing skills.Philani has been involved with 8 harvests which include other winer-ies and areas such as Slanghoek and Thelema in Stellenbosch.
He believes that wines should be made fresh, fine, elegant and low in alcohol….. I must say we concur with Philani. He will be exposed to all elements of winemaking and outside activities such as CWG Technical tastings through the year. He will be bottling his wine of last year as part of the criteria of the programme. What makes Philani happy: “a smooth and complete fermentation!” What gets him nervous or frustrated: “a sluggish fermentation”.

Small interesting creatures:
Mossie has sent the following images of the Yellow-haired Sugar Ant commonly known as the ’Bal-Byter” in Afrikaans and blessed with the botanical name of Camponoyus fulvopilosus.
This ant has a great technique to spray its attacker or enemy with formic acid rather than biting. The next couple of photographs below hopefully explains the actions. There is spotting the enemy, then maneuvering into position, then tucking its abdo-men, then the spraying and then lastly the inspection whether it was successful or not!
I still suggest you don’t sit on the ground if they are around—you might just get a pinch where you don’t expect it!
balbyt 8