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Celebrating a true wine legend

Lifestyle Section - Wine

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The friendinos gathered around the tables, feet in the sand and drank from their rough tumblers of white wine. There was much talking, eating, drinking, laughing and singing as plate after plate of fish straight from the sea to the coals found their way to the rustic tables.There was much Graçafication as the afternoon wore on and the wine flowed.

The occasion, just in case you haven’t already gathered, was a celebration to mark 30 years since the iconic wine Graça was founded.

Everybody has their own memories of when they first drank this easy-drinking very moreish wine – mine was at a Greek restaurant, Scandalos in the trendy suburb of Yeoville, Johannesburg, back in the 90s. The back garden was a delight of quirky mismatched furniture, and many afternoons were spent there, quaffing the wine to the accompaniment of plate after plate of mezethes, made by the Greek mama in the kitchen.

Brian aka “Graçino” Glass was one of those who took Graça from “a baby in nappies to a fully-fledged grown-up”, working in the marketing department.

At the relaxed and highly convivial lunch at Strandloper beach restaurant in Langebaan, he recalled how it was conceived as a personality-driven wine, and most who were around at its conception cannot forget the adverts for the vino.

“We all worked very closely together,” he related, “to come up with a quirky wine, not a ‘me too’ wine.

“We wanted to create a cheeky maverick,” he added.

The wine was launched in 1983 by Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery, and a brilliant marketing campaign was put into place to highlight its difference. It also played on the wine being modelled on the Portuguese-style vinho verde wines (the petillance or slight sparkle was later removed).

When it was launched in a mini 375 ml bottle (called bambino, of course to rhyme with vino and langoustino, the latter with which it pairs superbly), it received a birth certificate and transport vehicles were labelled with a picture of  the little bambino bottle and the warning triangle “baby on board!”

Colin Frith, one of the original winemakers relates: “It was made to be different, to be recognisable as a character of its own, and it’s a wine that is liked by virtually all wine drinkers – those who prefer dry wine, those who prefer sweeter wine, and even those who prefer red wine.”

The proof, as they say is in the bottle, and in August 1988, Graça broke the million litre barrier and went on to pass 1.5 million litres in March 1989. It reached the two million litre mark in 1990.

Although quite a distance, a better place could not be chosen for the celebration – and as tumbler after tumbler of wine was poured out to the happy party gathered around, on the low stools surrounding rough hewn tables, literally metres from the beach, one thing was evident – Graça is a perfect partner for seafood and ... everything else.

The restaurant dished up a delicious meal – all done in potjies or straight on the coals: mussels, harders which were deboned for each taker by a wizened Weskus woman tending the fires, snoek and patats, lamb bredie, seafood curry, white stumpnose and smoked angel fish and – to top it all fresh kreef – all the bounty of the West Coast sea.

And of course rooster brood – so delicious and made in various forms – all dripping with fresh farm butter.

And highlighting just how seafood-friendly Graça is, the bottle last year was declared “100% lobster-friendly”. The reference is to the makeshift measure local lobster-catchers can use to ensure their kreef are legally-sized. (According to urban legend, the length of the bottle is the same as a full-sized crayfish).

Amazingly, the price (about R3 when launched) has stayed low – around R30 at bottle – and to mark its 30th birthday, Graça will be sporting three festive birthday sleeves in yellow, green and blue.

Each one tells the story of special times South Africans have shared with Graça – from unforgettable events like the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to home-grown moments like the Lambertsbaai Kreeffees.

Written by Orielle Berry You are reading Celebrating a true wine legend articles

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