Four top-quality South African sparkling wines: Richard Esling, May 4

Founded in 1983, Graham Beck wines has now become one of the top sparkling wine producers, producing outstanding quality sparklers in Robertson, South Africa.

Four sparklers from the Graham Beck collection
Four sparklers from the Graham Beck collection

The wines are made by the Méthode Cap Classique, identical to the traditional method used to make Champagne, the majority of English sparkling wines and other top-quality sparkling wines around the globe.

The term Cap Classique has been used in South Africa since 1992, since sparkling wines were not allowed to be called Champagne. It has become a prestigious category, exclusive to South Africa. Blending the cuvée (base wine) is considered an art. Drawing from distinct vineyards and varieties, Cellar Master Pierre de Klerk composes a quintessential blend to succeed in preserving the Graham Beck house style, year after year.

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Born in Cape Town in 1929, Graham was a true entrepreneur, pioneer and visionary, striving to make the best sparkling wine in South Africa, which would also compete internationally. At the helm today is Graham’s son Antony, who remains deeply focused on maintaining the brand’s global reputation for impeccable quality and constant innovation.

Deeply committed to sustainability, the company undertakes initiatives aimed at preserving the eco-system and natural environment and improving and uplifting the lives of others in the communities. Several projects are run aimed at education and awareness of ethical farming and the conservation of indigenous fauna and flora.

The Graham Beck collection counts some 11 different cuvées, a number of which are shipped to the UK. Below are four, representing the diversity of styles of sparkling wines, all of tip top quality.

Two different styles of sparkling rosé are produced, each with its inimitable style. The Brut Rosé non-vintage is a blend of 66 per cent pinot noir and 34 per cent chardonnay. Sourced from vineyards across the Western Cape region, an appealing, soft and juicy wine is produced. An attractive pale pink, there are flavours of cherry and raspberries, with well-balanced acidity and elegant finish (£15.99, Majestic and North & South Wines).

Graham Beck Pinot Noir Rosé 2017, is from a single year and has a higher percentage of pinot noir at 89 per cent. It is also made with a lower dosage, giving a drier wine, maintaining subtlety and elegance alongside explosive fruit flavours. A first for South Africa in that the pinot noir and chardonnay were pressed together in the same press. Four years maturing on the lees for the secondary fermentation has produced an elegant, spicy, complex wine with good length (£16.99 from Majestic).

My other two wines from the collection are prestige cuvées, both pure chardonnay, single vintage wines. Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 2017 is rich, harmonious and complex, resulting from part fermentation in barrel of the base wines, meticulous blending and four years maturation on the lees and low dosage. A stunning wine, with layered textures, toasted brioche flavours and a long, complex finish (£19.50, Majestic and North & South Wines).

Finally, is the Graham Beck Ultra Brut 2016. With zero dosage, this bone-dry sparkler is fabulously crafted to produce an exceptional wine, aged for five years on the lees (£19, North & South Wines).

Richard Esling is a wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. He runs agency and consultancy WineWyse, is founder and principal of Sussex Wine Academy and is chairman of Arundel Wine Society