The Mountain Times

°F Fri, April 25, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Graham Beck’s cultivation of wine spurs from his passion and dedication

Most of today's successful wineries reflect the passion and dedication of one person: the owner, the founder, the one whose dream got it all started, keeps it together and makes it work.

One of these guys is Graham Beck, who in 1983 bought a farm in South Africa's wine country to produce wine supporting biodiversity while developing the farming community needed to sustain the agricultural aspect of operations. Graham Beck is the kind of guy that inspires those around him to continuously do their best. He is the consummate caretaker - of his wines, people, the environment as well as his customers. The conviction is that success lies in the sum of each part. 

Each employee, everybody working at the winery is seen as having an integral role in producing wine capable to be recognized internationally for its quality and respected for its family tradition. From the vineyard, to the cellar, bottling line, packaging division, sales and marketing and even childcare workers, grounds keeping and those greeting and serving the guests at the vineyard, all are asked to always do their best and care about the product.

The winery produces a variety of red and white wines, but is known best for their sparkling wines, which are made in the 'Méthode Cap Classique', the same process as used in Champagne. Of course only sparkling wine from Champagne, France, can legally be called 'Champagne'; and even the term 'Methode Champenoise' is now reserved for only the region of Champagne. So the rest of the world has to come up with their own terminology, even if the winemaking process is the same, or even the grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in this case.

Like in France, the wine is made the usual way: crushed grapes fermenting in a vat before being bottled; then a mixture of yeast and sugar is added directly to the bottle, which is first capped with a 'beer' cap. A second fermentation happens in the bottle creating those prized bubbles by releasing carbon dioxides that can't get out and dissolve in the wine, putting the bottle under immense pressure.

The bottles are kept upside down to let the ensuing sediments drop down into the neck of the bottle. After about eight to ten weeks the bottlenecks only are frozen, the 'beer' caps removed to let the pressure inside pop out the frozen sediments. The bottles are immediately topped off and closed with traditional cork and wire cage to keep it secure - quite a laborious process!

By the way what is called 'head' in beer, is called 'mousse' in Champagne, the constant jet of bubbles is called 'bead'. A fine, long lasting bead with a generous but not too frothy mousse are the signs of quality to look for.

Graham Beck grows not only the traditional varietals for South Africa Chenin Blanc and Pinotage, but also Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. Wines locally available are the dry sparkling 'Brut'; the Chardonnay/Viognier blend with its lemony, zesty tones backed by aromas of peach and apricot putting an explosion of tropical flavors on your palate with great zippy freshness and lingering finish; and the Shiraz/Cabernet blend with rich plumy character and hints of exotic spice. Berry tones, violet and attractive mocha and chocolate flavors make this wine an attractive choice for dinner parties!

Tagged: Wine Experiments