Many winemakers will say wine is made in the vineyard, not the winery – that the transformative chemistry of fermentation, while it certainly has its techniques and variables, is nothing compared to the vine’s relationship to the dirt it grows in and the hands that tend it.
There are winemakers who do not feel this way at all and many of them make completely bitchin’ beverages. But it is something to contemplate.
Which brings me to South Africa, where it is safe to say the prevailing sentiment is that it all matters. South Africa is not only glorious in quality-to-price-point ratio, but it’s also probably the greenest wine-producing region on the planet. Multiple bodies oversee sustainability certification based on practices in viticulture, wastewater management, worker safety, carbon footprint, packaging, chemical inputs and vineyard biodiversity. They’re a socially conscious bunch as well – in 2012, 65% of all Fair Trade Certified wine sold worldwide came from South Africa.
A standout for ecological activism in a standout region is Graham Beck Wines. Winemaker Pieter Ferreira is turning out spectacular bottles on land that goes beyond sustainably-farmed to dedicate itself to maintaining four hectares of conservation land for every one hectare they farm. In the diverse and threatened biome of the Cape Floral Kingdom, this is no small thing.
Yes, but is it good?
Uh, yeah. They have a sparkling Blanc de Blancs (that’s French for it’s made from Chardonnay) that has won major accolades including the gold medal at the International Wine & Spirit Competition for its fine effervescence, delicate nose and gorgeous mineral finish. (Oysters, anyone?) They have a wide range of offerings, some great weeknight wines and some special occasion types – including red field blends, varietal Chardonnay, Syrah, and the signature grape of South Africa, Chenin Blanc, and a lot of other tasty stuff.
Graham Beck Wines makes an additional commitment to protecting and conserving the delicately balanced and insanely diverse flora and fauna of southern Africa with their Game Reserve label, a groundbreaking collaboration with the Wilderness Foundation. Buy these wines and you are not only going to have a killer Chenin Blanc or Cabernet at an amazingly friendly price, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing some of your ducats went directly to the protection of endangered leopards, fish eagles, riverine rabbits and other critical-list critters.
Beautiful wines, ironclad commitment to land stewardship and biodiversity. PS, that is probably not a coincidence, as we are all in fact connected. Connect with Graham Beck Wines here if you cannot find them in your own biome. And drink the wines listed below this picture of the Graham Beck Robertson Game Preserve.
The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc 2014 ($16)
This bottle is dedicated to the Riverine Rabbit— a highly endangered, elusive animal that was discovered in the Graham Beck Private Nature Reserve. A beautifully balanced Chenin Blanc with a ripe, juicy fruit balanced by austere minerality.
The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($18)
This wine is dedicated to one of the most admired ‘Big 5’ animals- the leopard. The Robertson farm, where this wine is produced, is playing a vital role in maintaining the genetic diversity of this elusive species. A complex red with dark fruit, plum and tobacco notes complemented by firm tannins.