Nudged into the industry by a good family friend, rugby legend and wine pioneer Jan Boland Coetzee, Pieter found himself working side-by-side with Achim von Arnim at Cabrière in 1984, and on the soil of Champagne in 1987 and 1989, working harvests and falling in love with sparkling wine. “I fell into the deep end of the tank, but fortunately I’m still swimming!” he says, crediting his background in microbiology with helping him to understand the process of crafting Cap Classique.

Pieter joined Graham Beck’s Robertson cellar in 1990. “Along came the visionary Mr Beck, announcing, ‘My flagship must be a sparkling wine!’ – what a remarkable man, willing to make a huge investment in an area, based on gut feel.” Surprised by the quality and potential of the base wines even in the early days at the estate, Pieter worked hard to establish a solid platform for Cap Classique before focusing on Shiraz, which he found grew exceptionally well in the warm Robertson climate and rich limestone soils. “As South Africans, we have to embrace our sunshine,” Pieter says.

For Pieter, the challenge of sparkling wines is consistency, continuity and finesse. Capturing the fruit characteristics of a variety is also key: “You should be drinking the authentic style of the wines, not aiming for showmanship,” he says. “The smaller you can create that bubble, the better the chances are that the wine will develop gentle flavours.”

Pieter’s philosophy and Graham Beck Wines’ dedication to ‘Nothing Less’ has garnered their wines many awards and loyal fans, with their Cap Classique chosen to celebrate President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and Barack Obama’s presidential nomination, and in 2004 Pieter was awarded the prestigious Diners Club Winemaker of the Year award.

Today, as the Bubbly Cellar Master at Graham Beck Wines, Pieter is responsible for managing the Robertson cellar set to enable production and storage of over three million bottles of premium sparkling wine. But for Pieter, quality is not a destination, it’s a continuous journey: “I’m still in search of the perfect bubble – until then, I’ll keep refining.”

Robertson Estate:  tel +27 (0) 23 626 1214 fax: +27 (0) 23 626 5164

Franschhoek Estate:  tel +27 (0) 21 874 1258 fax: +27(0) 21 874 1712

e-mail: market@grahambeckwines.co.za