The sale of the Graham Beck Wines Franschhoek farm to Antonij Rupert Wines, the owners of the neighbouring L’Ormarins estate, resulted from a consolidation of the Graham Beck Wines’ assets, and should not create any visible changes at Graham Beck Franschhoek for the next 15 months or so in terms of cellar door tasting and sales. The Graham Beck brand and its wine range will continue to be marketed as before, says Graham Beck Wines Global Sales and Marketing Manager Etienne Heyns.
It was announced last week that Antonij Rupert Wines had bought the Franschhoek operation of Graham Beck Wines, the culmination of discussions that had taken place over a number of years between Johan Rupert and the late Graham Beck. With the passing of Mr Beck last year, the sale of the Franschhoek property reached its natural conclusion. The deal was signed last week, and is subject to certain conditions, as well as regulatory approvals. The sale includes 452 ha of land, of which only 16 % is planted to vine, a cellar each for red and white wine production, the tasting room and other administrative buildings, and the La Garonne manor house. The bulk of the Graham Beck wines are produced in Robertson, including their award-winning Cap Classique sparkling wines.
The sale to Mr Rupert’s company is considered to be of benefit to both parties. Antonij Rupert Wines’ intention with the property after the sale is unclear, and could be to expand the thoroughbred stud they already have on L’Omarins, and/or continue the winemaking under the L’Omarins and Rupert & Rothschild wine brands. For Graham Beck Wines the sale to Antonij Rupert Wines is one of comfort, in that the farm, which Mr Beck loved, will go to someone they know and trust, that Mrs Becks’ beloved gardens will be well looked after, that the good name and reputation of the Becks will be upheld on this property, and that the estate will continue to be operated with care and consideration for the beautiful buildings and cellars on the estate.
For Graham Beck Wines ultimately it may mean finding a new cellar door for the Graham Beck wines, in addition to their Robertson tasting room. They have a number of options, including using Steenberg Vineyards in Constantia (a sister Graham Beck property) as the tasting room and sales point, or even being as bold as DGB’s Brampton, and setting up shop in a town such as Franschhoek or Stellenbosch, to continue connecting with their winelovers close to Cape Town.
While Heyns would not commit himself to a figure of the percentage of sales that go through the Franschhoek cellar door specifically, it appears to be below 10 %, by far the larger percentage of Graham Beck wines being exported. Only a small percentage of the wines is produced in Franschhoek, and this means that the sale of the property will lead to increased production in Robertson, or perhaps even at Steenberg Vineyards. The Graham Beck vineyards in Firgrove are not part of the sale.
Gary Baumgarten, CEO of Graham Beck Wines, said in the media release that “None of the other Beck family wine interests form part of this transaction, there will be no change in the ownership of the Graham Beck Wines group, and the management of the operations of the Graham Beck Wines group remains unchanged”. Johan Rupert, owner of Antonij Rupert Wines, said: “The late Graham Beck was a friend of over thirty years. We have been neighbours for decades and he offered us the opportunity to acquire the land adjacent to L’Omarins some time ago. As a farmer, it is generally accepted that if, during your lifetime, the neighbouring farm becomes available, you are very fortunate”.
It will be a pity to see the closure of the Graham Beck Franschhoek cellar door next year, given that it is one of the most modern and professional tasting rooms in the Franschhoek valley, and that its sparkling wines in particular are so highly regarded. I have no doubt that Graham Beck Wines will find a creative solution to creating a new cellar door, which will allow them to continue connecting with their winelovers.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage