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.
A wonderfully balanced and juicy Merlot with up-front red fruit, dark chocolate and round, polished tannins.