Growing up in Durban as a ‘surfer dude’, Pieter ‘Bubbles’ Ferreira narrowly escaped entering dentistry after completing microbiology and plant science studies at the University of Pretoria. Instead, to the delight of party people and presidents around the world today, he sank his teeth into a wine making career that gives much cause for celebration with some premium-quality bubbly.
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.
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 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.