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Thwines of Graham Beck, South Africa

Graham Beck Wines
PO Box 134, Franschhoek, 7690, South Africa
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 874 1258 Fax: +27 (0) 21 874 1712
E-mail: market@grahambeckwines.co.za
Website: www.grahambeckwines.co.za  

Mining tycoon Graham Beck has one of the most modern and dynamic wine operations in the Cape. His is a two-centre winery, with Graham Beck Robertson and Graham Beck Coastal operating out of wineries in Robertson and Franschoek, respectively. These cellars draw on fruit from an impressive 360 ha of vineyards, located on four farms (Madeba farm, Robertson, 146 hectares; around the Coastal Cellars, Franschoek valley, 130 hectares; Vredenhof, Somerset West, 49 hectares and Skoongesig, Somerset West, 36 hectares). These wines are made in a thoroughly modern, new world style, and include varieties that wouldnít immediately be associated with South Africa, such as Viognier and Shiraz. The quality is very high across the board, although for some the winemaking imprint may be a little strong. I was especially impressed with the Viognier, Chardonnay, the two Shirazes and the regular Cabernet Sauvignon. And although Iím not a great Pinotage fan, the Old Road Pinotage is one of the best examples of this grape that Iíve tasted. Those with a penchant for weird wines will no doubt find the sparkling Pinotage a more-or-less compulsory purchase!

Colombard Chardonnay ('Waterside White' in the off-trade) 2001
Tasty. Good intensity in a fresh, crisp style, with a bit of citrus fruit. Clean and modern. Good/very good (£4.99 Sainsbury, Asda, Safeway, Co-op, Lay & Wheeler)

Cabernet Shiraz 2000 (called 'Railroad Red' in the off-trade)
Bright cherry and berry fruit on the nose with some richness. Thereís a liquoricey edge to the palate which is quite juicy, showing vibrant fruit. Good concentration to this tasty quaffer. Very good (£4.49 Sainsbury, Asda, Safeway, Co-op, Lay & Wheeler)

Chardonnay 2000
Rich nutty nose shows good intensity, and a savoury freshness. Lively palate shows vivid fruit and well integrated, nutty oak. A dense, savoury wine. Delicious. Very good/excellent (£5.99 First Quench)

Viognier 2001
Lovely ripe, lively nose with fresh peachy/floral character: varietally true. Delicious ripe peach and pear fruit on the palate with a nice texture (not too fat) and crisp acidity. Quite lovely. Very good/excellent (£5.99 Philglas & Swiggott, Bibendum)

Merlot 2000
Lovely, vibrant nose of pure raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. The palate is richly fruited with more raspberry fruit and a savoury, slightly spicy edge. A delicious effort: fruity, juicy and good concentration. Very good+ (£5.99 Waitrose, Lay & Wheeler)

Pinotage 2000
Bright fruit on the nose with a dark, slightly exotic herbal edge. The concentrated palate shows typical medicinal, cheesy Pinotage character with a rubbery edge. Interesting and savoury. Very good (£5.99 Tesco)

Shiraz 2000
Deep red/black colour. The nose shows forward berry fruit with a stern, spicy edge. The rich, concentrated palate has an attractive liquoricey edge to the spicy fruit, with some tannin. A modern, delicious wine. Very good/excellent (£6.99 Asda, Waitrose)

Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Brilliant commercial winemaking. Thereís a cedary, minerally core to the classy blackcurrant fruit. The palate shows a nice density of pure blackcurrant fruit with well judged oak and a nice minerally, tannic undercurrent. Savoury. Very good/excellent (£7 Bibendum)

Sparkling Pinotage 1999
Very odd, as you might expect. Lively berry fruit nose leads to a savoury, juicy palate, with good acidity. Hard to assess this sort of thing. Very good? (£9 Bibendum)

The Ridge Shiraz 2000
Great density here. The nose shows tight berry fruit and oak influence. Chunky, spicy palate with quite a bit of oak. The firm tannins make this quite a structured wine, and one that I suspect will need some time to show its best. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Waitrose)

The Cornerstone Cabernet 1998
Quite a serious, expensive-smelling nose with spicy blackcurrant fruit and well integrated oak. The palate is dense and quite structured, showing a fair whack of oak. Needs time to open out, when it may merit a higher rating. Very good+ (£8.99 Waitrose)

The Old Road Pinotage 2000
The remarkable nose is very spicy with a distinct ginger note. The concentrated palate is immediately recognizable as Pinotage, showing a lovely spicy character with an animal, cheesy edge. Very savoury, interesting and unusual, and great if you like Pinotage. Very good/excellent (£9.99+ Asda, Harrods)

Wines tasted January 2002, Bibendum Press tasting

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