Evolution of Icons
From vineyard to table
An icon is defined as a person or thing regarded as worthy of veneration.
The story of Graff has unfolded over more than six decades. Renowned for the most fabulous jewels in the world, Graff is driven by the pursuit of craft, a fixation with detail and a devotion to beauty. Founder of both Graff and Delaire Graff Estate, Laurence Graff holds a fascination with the emotional power of gemstones, and has built a reputation for working with the world’s most rare and precious gems. The Graff family presides over every step in the journey from discovery to cutting, polishing, and setting the final piece. Their quest for discovering elusive gems and shaping iconic jewellery has resulted in a rarefied world of nature’s marvels.
In the oenological context, an icon refers to a wine which is of such notable and consistent quality that it stands as a leader in its field. Since the founding of Delaire Graff Estate, the vision for the wine portfolio has been to achieve an extension of the powerful legacy of Graff, keeping with the Graff pursuit of perfection and showcasing the very best nature has to offer.
The Delaire Graff Icon Range has evolved over 15 harvests, with each wine’s origins being a passion project for winemaker Morné Vrey as he focused on the exploration of specially-selected vines in the cellar. The range now spans 50% of the Delaire Graff portfolio with nine distinctive terroir-driven wines, each with a reputation for longevity and awards which stand at the pinnacle of their category.
Right from the vine, these wines are crafted with an intentional practice. The vision of perfection decides every step of the process. Sites are selected to showcase the specific terroir of their micro-region, vines are managed with intent, and these characteristics are celebrated through a thoughtful cellar hand to capture their unique essence within each bottle. The practice demands a restrained hand; a subtlety to the intervention, deceptively simple, guiding the natural process to find harmony in their expressive balance.
To Graff, an uncut diamond is nature’s legacy, waiting to weave its tale at the hands of the master craftsman. Much in the same way, the grapes hold a story which can only unfold at the hands of a master winemaker whose respect for the heritage of the craft defines his ambition. Executed with patience, careful restraint and clear vision, the Delaire Graff Icon Wines are a testament to their maker’s obsession with perfection.
GROWING AN ICON
The journey of an Icon begins in the ground. Even from humble beginnings, every decision is calculated with the ultimate goal: create greatness. Sites have been carefully identified based on our understanding of the farm and its history, as well as which cultivars work best within the area. Delaire Graff invested in thermal imaging to determine the warmer and cooler areas of the estate to understand the micro-climates and select sites best suited to particular varietals. Through a considered soil analysis, our understanding of Delaire Graff’s dynamic terroirs was elevated allowing us to manage not only the vines, but the soil itself. After each harvest, the sites for the Icon Wines are reassessed to ensure superior quality of the grapes for the next vintage and adjustments to the practice are made as needed remaining fluid with the climactic evolution of the region.
During budding season, our vineyard team spends significant one-on-one time with the Icon Range vines. By paying close attention to every moment in the growth journey, our team have a better understanding of how harvest will unfold. Morné has a saying in Afrikaans “buig die boompie terwyl hy jonk is” which means ‘bend the tree while it’s young’. Of course, nature can throw you some curve balls along the way such as heat waves, torrential downpours, days of fog and even wildfires, but careful preparation and understanding of the vineyards at every level of their makeup allows us to navigate anything she might send our way.
HARVESTING AN ICON
After many months of careful tending and management to the unique sites, the time arrives to sample the fruits of our labours. For white varietals in the Delaire Graff Icon Range, early morning is the optimal moment to handpick the dew-laden cool grapes, as dawn breaks over the Drakenstein mountain peaks.
With red varietals, the winemaker and viticulturist taste the Icon grapevines bi-weekly to determine the ripeness of the skin, flesh, tannins and flavour profile (expect high step counts during this time).
When the levels are right, the grapes are collected in 18kg lugboxes (in comparison to larger format bins frequently employed across the winelands), and gently stored in cooling rooms before being hand sorted. Using these smaller lugboxes assists with keeping bunches intact which avoids bruising or crushing of grapes at the bottom of a box. Damaged grapes lose their structure, with a less elegant end result. With whole berries, we are able to hand select each grape for a wine, remove any impurities and avoid berries which do not meet the winemaker’s exacting standards.
CRAFTING AN ICON
As with a diamond, nature produces the raw material and man’s creativity shapes it in a way to showcase its innate marvels. Icon Wines are a showcase of terroir from proven-to-perform sites, honed in the cellar to bring out their nuances, distinctive characteristics and natural beauty. Each step in the journey from vine to table is carefully measured and our gravity-fed cellar takes a supporting role to the work done in the vines minimising machinery for a natural approach to vinification.
As in the vineyard, each step is a taken by hand, temperatures are controlled and mechanical intervention is avoided to ensure structural integrity. Part of this natural approach, the Icon white grapes are only handled while cold and receive no malolactic fermentation to keep their characteristics bright and retain a fresh acidity. After hand sorting, gentle extraction of juice precedes manual punch downs. The yeast selected is essential to ensure the process of fermentation brings to the fore terroir specific characteristics. With our Icon red wines, we place great emphasis on whole berry fermentation at cooler temperatures, coupled with strong management of tannin structures through skin contact post-fermentation for subtle extraction.
Maturation, in predominantly new French oak, highlights the finest natural characteristics of each Icon wine. Barrels are monitored closely and a rigid final selection takes place, where only the most outstanding barrels are chosen to be icons. The most superlative example of which is the Laurence Graff Reserve which comprises just the top 5 barrels of hand-harvested and sorted estate Cabernet Sauvignon – a wine consistently rated amongst the best in the country vintage on vintage.
DESIGNING AN ICON
Graff has crafted some of the world’s most exquisite, bold and iconic jewellery pieces. Each a beautiful reflection of the stones’ natural splendour. So too the Delaire Graff Icon Wine Range was to be a representation of the classic and refined elegance found in the bottle. Discovering natural potential and shaping it into something truly remarkable, were the first two steps in the journey of an icon. The final is the setting.
With the introduction of the Delaire Graff Sunrise Brut Cap Classique, named for the world’s largest square emerald cut fancy vivid yellow diamond at 118 carats – the Delaire Sunrise, the converging of Graff and Delaire Graff visual legacies began. The Sunrise Brut label features an intricate design echoing the astonishing facets of the iconic namesake, and the first design of its kind in the Delaire Graff portfolio. Inspired by this bold step, the hallmark of Graff, the Icon with its scalloped detail became more prominent in further Delaire Graff Icon designs. Each label developed a distinctive character to reflect the wine within with bottle, with detailed attention from concept through creation. We made a departure from classical labelling to designs that reflected not only the legacy of the wines, but their promise of longevity.
AN ICONIC PORTFOLIO
From considered origins in the vineyards through meticulous care in the cellar and thoughtfully conceived designs, the portfolio of Delaire Graff Icon Wines is undeniably a testament to Graff’s pursuit of craft, fixation with detail and devotion to beauty. An Iconic collection, and the perfect extension of the Graff legacy.