Entrepreneur, coal magnate and esteemed South African wine farmer, Graham Beck, died in London of cancer at the age of 80. Born in Cape Town and a graduate of the University of Cape Town, Beck pursued several business interests, but it was his love of horses that led him to Robertson (located about two hours inland from Cape Town).
The area’s limestone soil, good for horse breeding, is also ideal for quality wine and in 1983 Beck purchased the 3800 hectare farm, Madeba with the hopes of establishing a world-class winery. Under Pieter Ferreira, cellarmaster since the winery’s inception in 1990, he did just that. Over the years, the property helped raise Robertson’s quality image, specifically for Méthode Cap Classique, sparkling wines made in the Champagne method.
Beck subsequently purchased other properties and vineyards in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch; in 2005 he added to his winery portfolio the prime Constantia property, Steenberg Vineyards.
Beck’s other great passions were the environment and art. The majority of Madeba, only the second property to achieve Champion status under the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, is bursting with natural flora and fauna and works of art, many by Eduardo Villa, are found in all Beck’s cellars and around the vineyards.
Though he never sought the limelight, Beck will be remembered for his eponymous label and the legacy he left in the environmental and art worlds.