Delaire Graff
Visiting this impressive Stellenbosch (South Africa) wine estate


The Delaire Graff estate, in the Banghoek Valley of Stellenbosch, is spectacularly situated, fringed by dramatic mountains, with vineyards extending up the slopes. There are 20 hectares of vines on the estate, which is supplemented by 30 hectares of vineyards with contract growers. The estate has a talent for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon: the other varieties made here are sourced from good sites for these varieties.


This estate was purchased by Swiss-based Laurence Graff of Graff Diamonds in 2003, and has been pretty much fully transformed since then. It's now a luxury hotel as well as a wine farm, and everything is beautifully and tastefully done.


I tasted the wines with GM Johann Laubser and winemaker Morne Vrey (pictured above), on two separate occasions 16 months apart at the Delaire Graff farm. Morne has been here for seven vintages now, and was here for the first vintage in the new Gerald de Villiers-designed cellar (2008). 

The view from the restaurant 

To get the quality he wants for the Sauvignon Blanc, Morne blends terroirs. The main source is Olifantskloof, 900 metres from the Ocean on the west coast. The estuary here pushed minerals inland over a long time and the soil here is rich in old mussel shells. For the Coastal Cuvée, 5% of barrel-fermented Semillon from Franschhoek is included. These are two distinct styles; 'It would be boring to have two Sauvignons that taste the same,' says Morne.


For the Swartland Chenin Blanc, grapes are sourced from bushvines aged from 30-65 years old, and the wine is fermented in older bigger barrels and also 30% new oak. There's no malolactic fermentation or battonage, in order to maintain the freshness of the wine. 'In the Swartland every gram of acid is precious,' says Morne.

The hotel. Each room (lodge) has its own pool! 

Shiraz is made in a juicy, delicious style, and is good value for money. 'We decided we would be serious about Bordeaux varieties, but that Shiraz would be fun,' reveals Johann Laubser. For his Bordeaux reds, which are quite serious, Morne is careful not to over-extract, and uses whole berry ferments. 'I'm a firm believer in not over-working the wine,' he says. 'I'm trying to extract the fruit rather than all the hard nasty stuff you can get.'


Morne is a careful and very competent winemaker. He doesn't like using wild yeasts because of the risk, for example. But this cautious approach pays off in a consistently solid and occasionally exctiting portfolio of wines.

UK agent is Armit.


Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Western Cape, South Africa
Tight, reductive nose with an attractive palate of grapefruit and tangerine. Beautiful fruit-driven style. There's a hint of botrytis in here, with some apricot and spice notes. Lovely precise, mineral style. 91/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Western Cape, South Africa
Complex, pure and lively with lovely pear and citrus fruit, as well as a hint of green pepper. Lovely spice and texture here. Grown up. 90/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc Coastal Cuvée 2012 Coastal Region, South Africa
Rounded and lively with pear, peach and citrus fruit. Ripe and fruity but also very fresh in a zippy, vivid style. Good acidity: not a green style. 90/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc Coastal Cuvée 2013 Coastal Region, South Africa
Lovely mineral and grapefruit notes, as well as lemons and pears. Powerful with lovely precision, and a hint of blackcurrant. 91/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc Coastal Cuvée 2010 Coastal Region, South Africa
Expressive green herbal, pepper and citrus notes with some tangerine. Lovely weight with well integrated greenness. 91/100 07/14

Delaire Graff  Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2014 Coastal Region, South Africa (tank sample)
Stainless steel fermentation. Fresh pear and citrus notes with some ripe apple and hints of spice. Nicely textured with good purity. 87-89/100 07/14

Delaire Graff  Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2013 Coastal Region, South Africa
Pear, spice and ripe apples with nice texture. Pure and attractive. 88/100

Delaire Graff Chenin Blanc 2012 Swartland, South Africa
Barrrel fermented in larger barrels with a portion in new oak. Lovely rich, pure style with melon, peach and pear fruit. Some spice and vanilla notes, too. Lovely depth and freshness with real personality. 92/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Chenin Blanc 2013 Swartland, South Africa
Textured, ripe and attractive with peach and apple fruit, as well as well-integrated oak. Very stylish with lovely pear fruit. 92/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Chardonnay 2012 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Mostly estate fruit. Barrel fermented in small oak with 40% new, no battonage, no malo. Whole bunch pressed. Lively and fresh with toast and gentle nutty notes. Fine with some spice and dairy notes, and good acidity. Lovely citrus core, with real complexity. 93/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Chardonnay 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Cream, spice, pear and toast notes with lovely weight, and nice ripe apple and pears. Very stylish with some freshness. 91/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Semillon Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2010 Western Cape, South Africa
60% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon, barrel fermented and blended in June to stainless steel on gros lees. Taut, fresh and linear with nice purity and notes of lemon, melon and tangerine, as well as spice and vanilla. Very fine and expressive, flirting with green, and with nice oak integration. 93/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Semillon Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2012 Western Cape, South Africa
Interesting honeyed white with citrus and green herbs on the nose. The palate is bright and textured with some spiciness and honeyed nutty notes. Very stylish with lovely weight. 92/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Cabernet Franc Rosé 2012 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Morne Vrey says he's trying to make a serious style of rosé. This has a green leafy edge to the ripe strawberry and red cherry fruit. It's fruity, bright and linear with lovely freshness. Serious effort. 90/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014 Stellenbosch, South Africa
'It's like making Sauvignon Blanc, but pink,' says winemaker Morne Vrey. He uses the press juice because it helps with ageability. Subtle creamy edge to the bright pear and citrus fruit with a hint of strawberry. Dry but generous. 88/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Shiraz 2011 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Lovely fresh, pure, supple fruit here, with black cherries and plums, and good acidity. Nicely fresh with real drinkability. 89/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Shiraz 2013 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Lovely vivid sweet, pure black cherry, spice and meat notes. Ripe and fresh with some pepperiness. 88/100

Delaire Graff Merlot 2009 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Supple, savoury style with spice and earth notes, as well as some gravelly notes, but the key theme is full blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Good concentration. 90/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Merlot 2012 Stellenbosch, South Africa
From a single vineyard planted in 1999. Ripe sweet and pure with lovely chalky berry fruits. Expressive and generous with nice purity. Swallows the 80% new oak effortlessly. 92/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Botmanskop 2010 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Named after a mountain on the farm, this is a Bordeaux-style blend. Lively and intense with good acidity. Spicy, vivid and bright with intense black fruits and some grippy tannins. 90/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Botmanskop 2012 Stellenbosch, South Africa
A Bordeaux blend with a touch of Shiraz. Generous, ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with nice texture. Lovely focus here with some juiciness. 92/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009 Stellenbosch, South Africa
From the oldest vineyard on the farm, which is now 12 years old. Fresh, vivid and lively with spicy blackcurrant fruit, some earth, and good acidity. Gravelly and mineral with grippy tannins. 92/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2011 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Refined blackcurrant and spice nose. Lovely pure supple fruit showing precision and depth. Firm tannins and some spice, with well integrated oak. 93/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2011 Stellenbosch, South Africa
80% new French oak. Fresh blackcurrants with nice black cherries. Taut and spicy with nice definition and good structure. Rich but refined. 93/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve 2009 Stellenbosch, South Africa
A barrel selection of the top 5 barrels of the Reserve. Ripe, dense and structured with black fruits and great definition, as well as some spicy oak. Sweet fruit here. Well integrated oak and fine-grained tannins. Lots of interest here. 94/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve 2011 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Supple and sleek with textured blackcurrant fruit. Ripe, vivid and pure with smooth black fruits on the palate, and a bit of graininess. 93/100 07/14

Delaire Graff Cape Vintage 2010 South Africa
This Port-style wine is made from Tinta Barocca and Touriga Nacional. It's cold-soaked and spends time on skins after fortification, with an emphasis on fruit. 90 g/litre sugar and 19.5% alcohol. Lovely pure, spicy black fruits here with sweet black fruits and lovely definition. Pure, spicy, vivid and grippy with black cherry and blackberry fruit. 92/100 03/13

Delaire Graff Noble Late Harvest NV South Africa
A blend of 2011 and 2012, and Semillon and Sauvignon. Complex peach, pear and spice notes with rich texture, and notes of vanilla and apricot. Lush but fresh with lovely balance. 93/100 03/13

See also:

Visiting Waterkloof, Stellenbosch
Hemel-en-Aarde (series)

Wines tasted as indicated  
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