An Interview with a Bubbly Master

Pieter “Mr Bubbles” Ferreira has been synonymous with sparkling wine for almost 3 decades after joining Graham Beck in 1990 to what has become one of South Africa’s prestige sparkling wine producers.

Equivivere had the great privilege of asking him 5 Questions.

Firstly, thank you for being the driving force behind delighting us with bubbles and great wines for almost 3 decades and congratulations with all your various awards. Cheers! It was announced late last year that Graham Beck will be focusing on the Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) and not on producing a larger selection of wines. What were the main influences behind this decision?

I am delighted to have come this far and to build up the reputations as Mr “Bubbles” in the industry. I have been fortunate to specialize in Cap Classique for so long – 7 years at Pierre Jourdan and now starting year 28 at Graham Beck. Remarkable if I may say so, myself!

After some ‘soul’ searching and understanding the consumer better, we realized that Graham Beck was always going to be known for our Cap Classiques. When Graham Beck was still alive he always reminded us that “you cannot be everything to everyone” and “if you want to be better at what you do, best you need to focus”. Bubbly production has been my life and being a specialist, it was time to get the side shows out of the way and focus!

You also get to a critical mass in production: if you want to grow and improve on quality you need to be a specialist. Cap Classique is also the most vibrant wine category with a year-on-year growth of 15% and we have built a beautiful following and have created good brand recognition and loyalty. So actually a “no-brainer” for us!

Further congratulations on leading the way in sun harvesting by wine farms by installing about 2 400sqm of solar panels at Graham Beck in November last year. Could you give us a summary of how the installation of the solar panels has influenced the farm? And secondly, some of the most common found skepticism in terms of solar systems is that the projected figures will not materialise. What has been your experience thus far?

340 000kWh electricity has been generated since January this year. If we generate more electricity than the actual demand from cellars, the excess electricity is consumed by other farm activities such and water pumps etc.

At Graham Beck we proud ourselves of having a sustainable approach to business.

We loved the idea of renewable energy, especially solar power as we are situated in Robertson (‘there is only one son and it is Robertson’), which means we have a very efficient chance of generating electricity from solar panels. This has helped tremendously to make our electricity cheaper.

As most municipalities and other suppliers of electricity is not really geared to take electricity back into the grid we have opted to generate sufficient energy for the cellar and farm that keeps us off the grid by day. In the evenings our demands are less and then we take from the grid.

Knowing what our investment would be made our calculations and we are happy with our current situation.

Our projected electricity cost saving after six months: we are 16% ahead of projected yearly Rand value. The savings calculation was made on 8% increase in electricity price per year. This is a very conservative figure which helps to keep skepticism under control.

It is yet too soon to experience any other projected figures like guaranteed life time, etc.

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