Wheelchair-friendly winetasting at Graham Beck Winery

Monday, 22 November, 2004
Hilton Purvis
The Graham Beck Winery just outside Robertson (South Africa) is a strikingly modern structure in an industry crowded with history. Situated on a hill overlooking the vineyards its huge curved roof, boldly coloured walls, and modern interior decor are unique, even to this day . But therein used to lie the catch. The buildings design only provided for access to the tasting area and cellar via two long staircases, a "no-go" for any disabled visitor.

I have enjoyed the Graham Beck wines, particularly their chardonnay's and brut's, since the early 1990's when I first "discovered" the Robertson wine route. Sadly, for the past twelve years I have never been able to reach the tasting area. The staff have always been very obliging, bringing wines down into the gardens alongside the koi pond without hesitation, but the lure of the tasting room, and the views it obviously had to offer, was always there.
Cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira and his wife Ann, who is public relations manager for Graham Beck Wines, live on the Madeba farm and share strong community values. Staff are encouraged to develop themselves, and the estate participates in local food fairs, and the newly formed farmers market. Their infectious enjoyment of all things food and wine is plain for all to see and they clearly want everyone to share it with them. Within this environment Graham Beck was concerned that although his wines were being rated five out of five for awards, the Robertson winery was receiving a zero for accessability. Well, that has certainly changed, and if one could award them a six out of five for access it would be deserved.

Following the same attention to detail that Graham Beck pays to his wines last year the estate adopted a no holes barred approach to changing its access for disabled visitors. They created under cover disabled parking bays, installed a state-of-the-art lift, and providing a fully accessable bathroom facility. To smooth things off all floors and decking were levelled so that one can easy roll from the tasting area to the restaurant, to the outside veranda, and even into the 900 barrel cellar. In one move the estate has gone from being inaccessable, to being an example for all others to follow. An outstanding effort indeed.

Pieter Ferreira's Cap Classiques may have won numerous trophies, and his shiraz has been voted the best in the world for 2003, but he has another award winner on his hands, and that is the level of access the estate offers to disabled visitors.