After receiving an invitation to attend a team building in Robertson, and being privy to how Elbe & Lisa (the Graham Beck Wines marketing team) perfectly execute such visits, it took me no less than 1.5 minutes to excitedly accept and confirm my attendance. We were to meet at the cellar at 3pm one fine day in November and my colleagues and I decided to car pool and take a slow drive out together. The lovely thing about car-pooling is that you get to have a good old banter en route, and 3 ladies together for a morning drive, seemed to me to be the perfect start to an entertaining trip.
This time of the year is a great time to drive the N1 towards Worcester as the vines have their Spring coats on and shimmer shades of green all along the highway. The interesting thing is to see how the different areas are in different growth phases, with the Slang River Valley looking quite far along in the season, whereas in Constantia the vines are still looking a little stalky. I have been told that warm vs cool climatic conditions have something to do with this.
After a quick stop at NUY on the Hill – well worth a visit – we continued on our path towards Madiba Farm to meet up with our colleagues. At 15:03 we rolled up the long driveway, ready for all that was in store for us. Greeted by Kato and her team we were ushered into the private tasting area to begin the festivities. And what a better way to start than tasting some of the decadent bubblies that are produced by Graham Beck, in fact not some but the full complement san Cuvee Clive as there is only 27 bottles left in all the world – and at R630 per bottle that is a testimony to its desirability!
My personal flight favourite this time was the Blanc de Blanc 2012, fine mousse, hints of butterscotch and spice, slight riper pineapple and tropical flavours all wrapped up in a silky smooth fine palate. I would think a perfect foil for a light trout dish (need to go fishing again soon). It was liked best by all, but sharing the limelight with the vintage Brut Rose 2012.
GB has been eagerly addressing the perfect glass to serve their bubblies, and we all agreed that the old flute glass has had its time- the bubbles were aggressive on the tongue and the wine tasted more acidic with less fruit. My favourite glass was the Lemann Jemesse Vintage Champagne glass, which seemed to soften the wine, and coat the tongue with soft pillow of tiny bubbles. Quite memorable. In fact, in 2016 already, Decanter published this article entitled, “Farewell to Champagne Flutes” by Anne Krebiehl MW where they explore this exact notion.
Next on the agenda was to head out with Mossie, our intrepid leader, and only male for miles, to escort us lovely ladies, glasses of GB Brut NV in hand, to the Graham Beck Game Reserve. Our faithful Toyota gaming vehicle started best in 2nd gear and had us bumping and grinding our way on the rough gravel tracks through an otherwise unspoilt wildlife reserve supported by and managed by the Graham Beck Trust. Mossie has been involved in the reserve from the beginning, and was tasked with rehabilitating the land back to its natural condition (including rehabilitating a part of the reserve which was a dump for the last 30 years!). He tells us fond stories of his time with Graham and Rhona Beck and their memorable game drives together sipping on whisky and solving the world’s problems.
If someone was made from the grass that grows, the wind that blows and the water that flows, his name could be Mossie. He is linked to the land, and speaks of it as if he has lived for a thousand years on this very reserve. He knows all the ancient uses for the plants (from pickling pork seasoning to poison to sunscreen) and tells us entertaining stories of the flora and fauna. Four bottles down and we are starting to get knowledgeable too! After Mossie almost impaled himself on an Acacia tree, a few good chuckles and some fun photos, we head back to the lapa to get going with the dinner arrangements.
First up, Mossie lights the fires and we start the preparations for various renditions of “Baby Bottle MCC Loaf” (recipe below). We all had to prepare a loaf and Mossie baked it for us in the coals.
We had bought up a special bottle of Steenberg SB 2005 and Steenberg Semillon 2000 from our vinoteque, which we were keen to try. My most memorable bottle of white wine being the Steenberg Reserve SB 2003 made by John Loubser, which I had had a few years before, which had aged beautifully. The Semillon showed a brilliant straw colour in the glass, and although developing some secondary nutty characters was still full of life and had good structure and acidity. I was surprised at how it had faired and I kept going back to it for most of the evening. The giant marshmallows funnily enough, were an interesting match, especially when toasted on a rosemary stick over the coals to get some charred flavours coming through. A last pairing to end off a rather fantastic day.
As the sun disappeared and the wild came out in all sorts of sounds, we toasted to our team and to each other and promised to do this more often.
RECIPE: Baby Bottle MCC Loaf
500g cake flour
1 baby bottle MCC (375ml)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or to taste
1 tablespoon Sugar
1 sprig of Rosemary
150g grated cheese
Butter (for the loaf pan and to serve)
Bash the rosemary with the salt in a pestle and mortar until fine. Mix the dry ingredients, most of the cheese and the rosemary mixture together. Pour yourself a good gulp of MCC (about 100ml), and mix the rest with the dry ingredients. Knead into a soft spongy dough (about 5 minutes). Grease the loaf pan and pat the dough into the pan topping with the left over cheese. Put the loaf into the coals with some on top of the lid for about 45 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Serve warm with butter, cheese and jam.