Delaire means “from the sky” – an apt title for a place that feels blissfully suspended from reality. A decade after opening its doors to the world, Wade Bales takes a closer look at what holds it together and hoists it above the rest … In a textbook case of life imitating landscape, Delaire Graff sits at the crest of a mountain range in Stellenbosch. It has likewise risen to represent the pinnacle of luxury in no less than three markets: wine, art and hospitality. Yet to consistently stand out in all three of these crowded fields takes more than a breathtaking view and a bit of luck. Tenacity, teamwork and one man’s instincts have interwoven to form the golden thread that runs through every block, barrel, art work, aperitif, spa treatment and pillowcase.
Let’s start with the man and his instincts. Laurence Graff began his career as a jeweller, starting work as an apprentice at the tender age of 15. He founded Graff Diamonds in 1960 and is said to have handled more diamonds of notable rarity and beauty than any other jeweller. Ever.
“Hard work, passion and the desire to be the best are all incredibly important factors for success,” says Graff.
Having found great success in the jewellery business, Graff set his sights on creating a masterpiece of a different kind, in a very different setting. Purchasing Delaire Estate in 2003 (it was previously owned by the Platter family), he began the process of polishing, honing and refining, eventually opening the doors to Delaire Graff Estate in 2009.
Now globally recognised as the Jewel of the Cape Winelands, it holds in tension the best of man-made luxury set in God-made beauty.
Of course, far from being a one-man wonder, this seemingly effortless feat has taken truckloads of teamwork to achieve. Behind the scenes and breathtaking landscapes, just the right people have been set in just the right places. Each one works in their respective capacities before gathering for an organic lunch in the staff canteen every day.
I briefly caught up with Delaire Graff’s marketing & PR manager, Tanja von Arnim, to find out a little more about what makes her (and Delaire Graff) tick …
What sets Delaire Graff apart? Every wine estate is a portrait of its owner. Mr Graff’s extraordinary eye for detail, passion for all things exquisite and absolute commitment to quality sets Delaire Graff Estate apart.
What does luxury mean to you? Honestly, I think the term is overused and has lost its meaning. I would prefer to speak of commitment to upholding quality and reinvesting in that quality at all costs. This has been our guiding philosophy for the last 10 years at Delaire Graff Estate.
What's your personal guilty pleasure? My new LV travel bag. It is a total indulgence but so practical.
Tell us about the team on the ground. We have recently welcomed Kevin Grobler as head chef of Delaire Graff Restaurant and he brings with him a renewed focus on sustainability in our kitchens - from sourcing to creation to disposal, with limited food waste. We are going to see exciting things happen with him at the helm and look forward to seeing what he brings to the role. In the cellar, Morné Vrey is at the top of his game, so you can continue to expect exciting new vintages and additions.
What do overseas guests treasure the most about our country and your estate? South Africa is renowned for the natural hospitality and warmth that you find in all corners of our diverse, dynamic and resilient nation. At Delaire Graff Estate, guests fall in love with the breathtaking beauty of South African vistas, and one of the country's finest local, private art collections adorning the walls and gardens. In many regards, Delaire Graff is a reflection of the best our country has to offer - the food, wine, art, design and natural beauty all reflect elements of our South African heritage.
Your favourite wine? It would depend on the season and the style of cuisine alongside it. However, the Delaire Graff Terraced Block Chardonnay Reserve is an intriguing and exciting wine I enjoy immensely, no matter the season.
Favourite seasonal fare? This winter, I have fallen head over heels for the roasted tomato soup created by Kevin Grobler. Each spoon is sinfully delicious - I'm not sure what's in it, but if it's on the menu, I'm having it.
If you could buy one art piece as an investment, which would you choose? David Goldblatt’s prints from On the Mines. I recently saw these on display at the Norval Foundation.