Fall From Grace's founder, Gill Gordon-Smith, tells the story of her first orange wine, the "beautiful error" that is Lolita.
Orange origin stories: Fall From Grace
Like all good branding, the flight attendant wings emblazoned across every bottle of Fall From Grace wine tells the story of the business itself.
The woman behind the brand, Gill Gordon-Smith, had another life before her Aldinga shopfront and its accompanying winery, as a flight attendant (or “hostie,” as she self-identifies) with QANTAS. Throughout her career, she racked up miles across continents, but her McLaren Vale heritage influenced the way she experienced each destination.
The Fall From Grace wings not only tell the story of her hostie career, but also of how broadly she’s travelled in the pursuit of good wine.
Like another origin story we heard from Gill earlier this year, her foray into orange wine begins in a wine shop in London.
“Twenty years ago in London I went to a place called Vinopolis… and they had Georgian wine tasting there,” she says.
“I was like ‘What is this?’ and tried some white wines with skin contact and thought ‘I’ve never tasted anything like these.’”
Years later, after Fall From Grace had been founded, her fascination deepened after meeting the late Stanko Radikon, of Italy’s Radikon wines, who is considered to be a hugely influential member of the global natural and orange wine movements.
“I’d been drinking Radikon wines for quite a few years, but I met him at Rootstock and he was talking about Oslavia… and he was talking about how traditionally it had been done there for hundreds and hundreds of years,” she recalls.
While she had the ear of one of the world’s most respected orange wine producers, she asked how he made his, “and he told me,” she says.
It was February in 2013, Rootstock’s inaugural year, and Gill would leave the festival with an idea.
She bought some clay pots and a parcel of arneis and embarked on not only her first orange wine, but her first white wine grapes. The result was Lolita.
“I just thought I’d give it a go. I’d been tasting the grapes and thinking ‘This would work really well as an orange wine,’” she says.
“I call it the beautiful error because I’d decided to leave it in contact with the skin for a month, but on the day that I made the wine, we crushed the grapes and I left a bit of whole bunch in it, and the boys moved the ferment when I wasn’t there outside in the sun in a 35-degree heat day, so the ferment started to really rush through really quickly.
“I was doing everything you shouldn’t do with white wine for the first white wine I’d ever made… and then I thought ‘I may as well just go with it.’ So I got in and just really went in and worked it over every day.
“I put it in the pots, closed it off, and left it there… and then after two months… it just turned into this amazing [wine]. Every time I tasted it, I’d go ‘Wow, look at this, it’s just unreal.’”
Lolita made number six in the following year’s Hot 100 SA Wines list, and has been Fall From Grace’s biggest selling wine each year since.
Gill has changed the process slightly since the 2013 edition and it’s no longer as “out there,” she says.
“The first one was a really intellectual wine, it was something that you look at and you go ‘Where the hell did this come from? How do I understand this wine?’”
Now, Gill describes Lolita as full of ginger, spice, and tropical fruit flavours, with citrus that doesn’t extend into sweetness, and “a good line of acid and structure.”
Lolita will be on show as part of Not Quite White in the first weekend of August, and Gill is keen to see the public’s reaction to hers and the rest of the orange and amber wines on show.
“I think it’s going to be a really interesting little exercise for everybody, because they’re going to be able to taste [a range of wines],” she says.
“Don’t be scared of it. It’s just another style. You’ve got fruity reds, you’ve got more tannic reds, you’ve got fresh, crisp aromatic whites, you’ve got round, mouth-filling oaky whites… this is just something a little bit different.”