South Africa 2016 – A special Report by Tim Atkin MW
31 October 2016
Tim Atkin, UK master of wine said in his 2016 special report “When it comes to the quality of South African wine, I’ve never felt more positive.”
Thelema Rabelais 2012
This time, it’s a cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Petit Verdot. Sourced from the best blocks at Thelema, it’s meaty and concentrated, with plenty of tannic structure, well-integrated oak and inky plum and cassis fruit flavours supported by acidity.
Thelema Merlot Reserve 2013
Thelema’s Reserve Merlot is a barrel selection that often comes from the same vineyard block. It’s a very accomplished rendition of what can be a tricky grape to grow in the Cape, showing flavours of plum, bramble, graphite, green herb and scented vanilla oak. The tannins are very fine indeed, hinting at good ageing potential.
Sutherland Chardonnay 2014
Thelema’s Elgin Chardonnays are in a rich vein of form at the moment. This combines flinty reduction with beeswax, honey and mineral notes, with some pear and melon sweetness and a core of fresh acidity. The oak is very smart, too.
Thelema ‘The Mint’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Fans of The Mint – so-called because of the eucalyptus trees that surround the vineyard – should buy this, the penultimate vintage of the wine, before the vines were replanted. It certainly lives up to its name in 2013, with minty notes balanced by fine but sturdy tannins, stylish oak and small berry, cassis-scented concentration.
Thelema Chardonnay 2014
Thelema’s Chardonnay was one of the first Cape examples to develop an international following and is still an impressive expression of the grape. Textured, balanced and leesy, with some honey and toast, it’s a full malo style but is supported by citrus-edged acidity.
Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
“…this is a dense, compact, concentrated Simonsberg Cabernet that soaks up its oak with ease. Needs a bit more time in bottle.
Thelema Riesling 2014
Just off dry at 5.3 grams of sugar – although it’s even less apparent because of the wine’s tangy acidity – this is quite developed for a 2014, showing classic lime and kerosene flavours and a mid-straw colour, but is still delicious.
Sutherland VR 2013
An unusual, 60/40 combination of these two Mediterranean grapes, which tend to be parts of bigger blends, even in France. First made in 2009, it’s a very accomplished style, with well integrated oak, some herbs, a hint of peach and a tangy, refreshing finish.
Thelema Ed’s Reserve 2014
Ed’s is always made with the so-called Muscaté clone (166) that you sometimes find in the French Mâconnais and definitely shows the grapey, orange peel note that’s a feature of some Pouilly-Fuissé wines. Rich, honeyed and leesy with sweet melon and white peach flavours.
Thelema Merlot 2013
Made with an Italian clone and sourced mostly from lower vineyards on the farm, this Merlot is smooth, textured and subtly oaked, with some green herbs providing added complexity. The tannins need to soften in bottle.
Thelema Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Thelema’s Stellenbosch Sauvignon comes from seven different blocks, most of them on the Simonsberg. It’s a zesty unwooded style with mint and lemongrass flavours and a green bean-like undertone. Hugely drinkable stuff.
Thelema Shiraz 2013
It doesn’t say so on the label, but there’s a soupçon of Grenache in this Simonsberg Syrah. Meaty, aromatic and dark fruited, it has cumin and pepper spice notes, savoury oak and a backbone of fine tannin. It ages well, too.
Sutherland Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2011
There aren’t many wines in cool climate Elgin made of a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon with late-ripening Petit Verdot, but this blend succeeds in most vintages at Thelema. Minty, spicy and grassy, with fine tannins, a herbal undertone and graphite and blackcurrant leaf flavours.
Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Showing the acidity of the cool, apple- as well as grape-growing climate of Elgin to perfection, this is just off dry, with some phenolics, tangy grapefruity flavours and lime zest notes to balance the slight sweetness.
Sutherland Syrah 2011
Thelema’s Elgin-sourced Syrah – and it’s definitely not a bolder Shiraz style – comes from two vineyards and is aged in 30% new oak. Thyme and lavender aromas segue into a meaty, red berry fruity number with decent grip and acidity.