Cabernet may be its trump card, but the origins of Thelema owe more to the wines of Burgundy than Bordeaux: it was a bottle of Puligny-Montrachet that lured Gyles Webb away from accountancy in Durban to winemaking in Stellenbosch.
Armed with a winemaking degree and influenced by travels in Tuscany, Bordeaux and California, Gyles and his wife Barbara, a noted triathlete, bought Thelema, an old fruit farm high on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountain, in 1983. This is the wilder side of Stellenbosch, where spotted leopards roam the vines and a combination of elevation and eucalyptus trees creates a much-prized style of Cabernet with a distinctively minty freshness.
These days Gyles is Cellar Master, with the talented Schultz brothers (Rudi and Werner) responsible for the winemaking and vineyards respectively. But the philosophy remains true to Gyles' original vision, centred on the principle of what he calls benign neglect', minimal fining and filtration, and no use of commercial yeasts in the red wines. True too to the Thelema name, taken from the idealised concept of a new world order imagined by 16th century French monk, physician and writer Rabelais.
Sourced from established vineyards planted in 1985 and 1986 on Hutton soils (decomposed granite) and planted at a density of 3200 vines per ha. Vineyard practices include vertical hedge trellising, spur pruning to 2 buds every 12cms and supplementary drip irrigation. Hand harvested from 31st January to 26th February, the yield was 5t/ha.
The bunches were de-stalked and crushed, chilled and left over night in contact with the skins before pressing, settling and racking from the gross lees into 33% new French barriques where alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentation took place at about 21 degrees C. Battonage was performed once every 3 weeks during a total ageing period of 11 months.
Rich, bright, golden yellow hue and an aromatic, complex nose of lime marmalade, guava and melon fruit and toasty oak nuances. The palate is medium to full bodied and rounded, packed with luscious tropical fruit flavours, a delicious mineral streak and well integrated, nutty oak which lends a creamy texture in the mouth. Finishes soft and succulent.
Drink with ich seafood dishes or perhaps with lighter game birds or poultry.