He abandoned his accounting career in Durban to become a winemaker. In 1983, with the help of his wife’s family, the McLean’s, Gyles Webb bought Thelema.
The beginning of a family legacy.
The manor house was restored and the first wines under the Thelema label were released in 1988. By the mid 90’s Thelema’s wines sold out within a month after release, making it one of the most sought-after wine estates in South Africa. The Webb family describe Thelema as “one of the most beautiful places on earth”.
As Thelema in Stellenbosch continued to flourish, Gyles embarked on a search for an additional property in order to establish a second vineyard. In 2002, the Webb family purchased an idyllic farm with an undulating landscape, in the cool Elgin region, creating ideal grape growing conditions.
François Rabelais was a monk, doctor and writer in sixteenth-century France who imagined a utopian abbey on the banks of the Loire. In stark contrast to the religious orders of his day, this community admitted both men and women and encouraged them to live together in great luxury. Only one law governed its members: “Fay ce que vouldras” – Do what thou wilt!
This was the Abbey of Thélème, which ultimately lent its name to our vineyard on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain: Thelema.
“Rabelaisian” is defined as “displaying earthy humour; bawdy,” and Rabelais spent a lot of time thinking and writing about wine. Among his more memorable quotes were “Wine is the most civilised thing on earth” and “Never did a great man hate good wine,” so it is only fitting that we name our flagship wine after him.
The sacred phoenix appears in ancient Arabian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Chinese and Indian mythology, but a little closer to home, the phoenix also symbolises the birth of Thelema, and is present on both sides of the Thelema family. The McLeans owned the Phoenix Garden Hotel in Kimberley, and there is a phoenix on the Webb family crest.