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Interview with Emmanuelle and Toby Bekkers

 

 

Langton’s caught up with Emmanuelle and Toby Bekkers to talk origin stories, loving the land, and of whom we should be wary. The Bekkers produce beguiling Grenache and Syrah made with integrity and the intention of elevating McLaren Vale and exciting lovers of fine wine.

Explore the Bekkers range now.

 

Why wine?

 

Emmanuelle: Being a biochemist wasn’t that thrilling so when my father took me on a wine tasting trip around our region of Provence and suggested that I should give winemaking a go. I thought. ‘why not?’ I’ve never regretted it.

Toby: Mum's family had a mixed farm in Reynella and my grandfather worked in the Reynell cellars. Although the property was gobbled up by housing in the early seventies there's always been some connection to wine.

What I love about wine is the diversity of it all. One day we're doing hard, manual work in the vineyard; the next we're hosting a dinner in one of Australia's best restaurants. Our Tasting Room mirrors this. The vineyard is a farm, but cross the threshold into the Tasting Room and things are polished, it’s a well designed comfortable space. Wine is farming, nature, hard work but also an important part of the culture–gastronomy, art, architecture, and companionship.

 

How long have you worked in the industry?

 

Emmanuelle: A long time but still loving it! I finished my degree in Oenology at the University of Montpellier in 1995. And I’ve worked double vintages for a long time.

Toby: We met in a McLaren Vale winery in 1995. We've had long careers based in McLaren Vale since then but we’ve also had the opportunity to head back to France each year in our winter.

We've both had long careers based in McLaren Vale which has given us a very detailed understanding of what makes McLaren Vale tick.

 

The contemporary cellar door

The contemporary cellar door

 

What inspired you to start Bekkers?

 

Emmanuelle: Our love for fine wines and McLaren Vale. The desire to create something special for the region of McLaren Vale.

Toby: We've been very fortunate to spend time with some of the world's most respected producers. Nothing we've seen leads us to doubt that McLaren Vale can stand proud alongside other great regions. Our purpose is to be a fine-wine emblem for McLaren Vale and Bekkers.

 

What makes Bekkers unique?

 

Emmanuelle: Our small operation allows us to be focused on every single aspect of our production. From the vineyards to winemaking to bottling, every step of the way, attention to detail is the key to making fine wines. The secret to creating fine wines is cultivating an environment where we have the luxury of time. And space to bring in all the fruit at its optimum ripeness, fermentation space that allows us to leave wines in tank as long as is necessary, great maturation conditions and a focussed suite of three wines that are released with adequate barrel and bottle ageing. Time is the key ingredient for fine wine.

Toby: All our wines are a blend of different vineyards across the northern half of McLaren Vale. I think we have a very deep understanding of the diverse viticultural palette of our region. Importantly, we view this through an international lens. The blend of local knowledge and global viewpoint works well for us.

 

What can you tell us about your ethos of  “ecology, not chemistry.”

 

Emmanuelle: Winemaking is based on chemistry and biochemistry knowledge but to be a great winemaker you also need to be an artist as there is so much in wine that still can not be quantified so intuition is still an important part of what I do.

Toby: To my mind the challenge is to integrate grapevines, a foreign plant, into the landscape as sensitively as possible. If we are going to do this then can we actually add value in terms of habitat, biodiversity etc? What methods of farming might minimise disruption? We're not fundamentalists though. There are many ways to farm and rarely is there a single system that works well in all situations.

 

The Bekkers winemaking story starts with exceptional attention to detail in the vineyard

The Bekkers winemaking story starts with exceptional attention to detail in the vineyard

 

What is a great memory you have had with wine?

 

Emmanuelle: First vintage in Bourgogne as an assistant to the talented winemakers of Domaine Des Perdrix and Domaine Jacques Prieur. Tasting Greek Retsina wine in Greece. Barrels tasting at Cheval Blanc and Haut Brion while studying winemaking. Vertical tasting at Beaucastel and La Nerthe.

Toby: For me wine is travel and people. If we travel with an open mind there's always something new to learn, even in the most unlikely places.

 

Tell us about being a family-owned and run business.

 

Toby:  A family-owned business can be steadfast in following the vision of its founders. We don't answer to shareholders or employers. We work very hard but there's a pleasure in being the master of one's own destiny.

Emma: I can be ruthless in terms of quality. If I'm not happy with a barrel, for example, it doesn't go into the final blend.

 

What can you tell us about your 2019 wines?

 

Emmanuelle: For me 2019 is a great balanced year across our three wines. Great depth of flavour on a background of soft and silky tannin. The Grenache is very aromatic (spices and red fruit with a hint of savouriness) with a textured softness that carries the flavour through for a long time. The Syrah Grenache is darkly fruited with some floral notes, the Syrah adds a middle weight to the palate that creates a plushness about the wine. The 2019 Syrah showcases savouriness and spices (clove, cinnamon) with some delicate satsuma plum and dark cherry.

 

‘A story of soil and soul.’ Can you let us know a little more about this line?

 

Toby: To me they're the two critical elements of great wine. The farm and the human desire to shape the outcome into something beautiful. Emmanuelle always says that if you don't have the soul; or passion for wine then the wine you make can be technically sound but it'll never be consistently great.

 

Bekkers McLaren Vale Wines

Bekkers Wine

 

Grenache is steadily gaining more popularity in Australia; tell us about your love for growing Grenache?

 

‘We need to find sites that naturally bonsai the vines...’

 

Toby: What I love about Grenache is the challenge. It's a difficult variety to coax quality from, both in the vineyard and the cellars. It is such a strong plant that tends toward overproduction. We need to find sites that naturally bonsai the vines and work hard at managing crop load, exposure etc. The results can be incredible–lighter framed wines but with an underlying savouriness and tannin structure that accompany food so well.

 

And Syrah?

 

Toby: Shiraz Is McLaren Vale's most widely planted variety. Our example is intended to showcase McLaren Vale's trademark generosity of flavour but we're very careful to avoid making a simplistic, big, bold, overwrought Shiraz. Fine wine polish is a description we use often–spice, fragrance, and silky texture. Teaming the scaffold of darker, denser coastal fruit with the elevated, lighter-framed, later ripening Clarendon parcels tends to arrive at a nice balance for us. Structure and aromatics in balance.

 

What trends do you see in our industry that excite you?

 

‘A renewed interest in mature wines.’

 

Emmanuelle: The work that sommeliers do to get to know the wine so they can then work closely with the chefs to offer great food and wine pairings. A renewed interest in mature wines. Youth is beautiful but intensity and integration in a mature wine are also something worth rediscovering.

Toby: I think I'm seeing a renewed appreciation for craft and experience. Ours is a métier where accumulated knowledge is critical. Making consistently great wine is built on a foundation of time invested and experience gained. I believe that the very best producers really mature when they realise that there's always more to learn. There's a humility in that thought that I really like. Beware anyone who believes that it's possible to learn in a year what can't be learnt in a lifetime. The mystery and constant challenge of it all is what keeps us fascinated.

It was an absolute pleasure to catch up with Emmanuelle and Toby and we look forward to what they produce in the future and we can’t wait to visit their McLaren Vale cellar door.

Explore the Bekkers range now.

 

Further Reading
Bekkers Fine Wine from The Vale
Bekkers - Fine Wine From The Vale
A Buyer’s Perspective: Great Bordeaux Under the Radar by Ned Goodwin MW
Great Bordeaux by Ned Goodwin MW
Discover Alex Sherrah
Discover
Alex Sherrah

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