Pieter Ferreira 2004 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year

Monday, 22 November, 2004
Tony Mossop
The winning wine: Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blancs 1999. Known to his friends as "Bubbles", cellarmaster for Graham Beck and acknowledged as one of the most accurate blind tasters of Champagnes and sparkling wines anywhere, Pieter Ferreira is a worthy winner of the 2004 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award.

Yet his arrival on the Cape wine scene was not guaranteed, if you consider that he was born in Ermelo in Natal, matriculated at Afrikaans Hoër in Durban North and majored in microbiology and economics at Pretoria University in 1983.

A year after completing his 'varsity studies, he followed his interest in wine by joining the legendary Achim von Arnim at the new Cabrière cellar in Franschhoek, where he spent six years honing his craft as a "bubbly" maker before joining Graham Beck, who was looking for someone to kick-start his visionary development near Robertson - at that time hardly on the average wine-lover's map as the home of a sparkling wine facility.

Pieter's maiden vintage in his spanking new cellar was in 1991, and since then he has accumulated considerable experience in Champagne itself, as well as in California and Burgundy, with the Madeba farm going on to win a host of awards - and not just for bubblies. His Graham Beck Brut was chosen to celebrate President Mandela's inauguration in 1994, and he has taken home no fewer than four SAA Sparkling Wine trophies.

Pieter has the backing of the wonderful Ann, his wife. They have produced William, already an accomplished sub-teen winemaker in his own right, and daughter Kate. "Bubbles" loves cooking with Ann (who comes from a formidable restaurant family), playing the 'vicious' sport of petanque, and pretending to surf with William.

One of eight Graham Beck entries for the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award this year, the 1999 Blanc de Blancs was the clear favourite of the seven Diners Club judges, both in terms of average score and ranking.

Made only from Chardonnay fruit nurtured on the Madeba farm just outside Robertson, half of the wine was fermented in pièce Champenoise 205-litre French-oak barrels, with the remainder fermented in stainless steel. The blend spent some 40 months on the lees in bottle to gain complexity before disgorging in October 2003.

The wine contains 11% alcohol and has a residual sugar of 8.4 grams per litre. It shows a brilliant greenish straw colour in the glass, with racy, pin-point bubbles and creamy mousse. The nose is immediately forthcoming in a nutty, minerally style, though reserved and sophisticated. The restrained Chardonnay fruit is enhanced by the mere hint of clean, honeyed oak, and develops on the palate as the mousse warms in the mouth - finishing with great length, balance and steeliness.

Pieter 'Bubbles' Ferreira
Pieter 'Bubbles' Ferreira

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