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Words: Richard Holmes | Images: Supplied

At the turn of the millennium, Thelema’s cellarmaster Gyles Webb went looking for a new challenge, a second property to supply fruit to the cellar. He found it in the cool Elgin valley, and soon set about pulling out old apple orchards and replacing them with vineyards. But the decision to expand wasn’t simply the desire for more vineyards, but rather a vineyard site with a unique terroir.

“The expression in the Sutherland wines is completely different,” says Rudi Schultz, winemaker at Thelema. “Take the Sauvignon Blanc, for example. Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc is about tropical fruit, guava and passion fruit, whereas Elgin is more mineral and a lot leaner.”

Today, 15 years after the vineyards were planted, the vines are hitting their stride. “You can really see that vine age in the wine,” says Rudi. “Pinot Noir and Syrah, in particular, need a bit of maturity in the vine, and in the last two or three vintages, we have seen a spike in concentration and complexity.”

That certainly applies to the excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives Thelema’s Stellenbosch Cabernet a run for its money. But the Sutherland range is also worth exploring for some of its niche varietals and blends. While a splash of Petit Verdot adds complexity to the Sutherland Cabernet Sauvignon it’s also bottled on its own in the range. A single-varietal Grenache is equally worth discovering: “That’s been a work in progress,” says Rudi. “We’ve had to put a lot of work into the vineyard to tame the vines!”

On the white wines, the Chardonnay – the minerality softened by 10 months in oak – is a standout, while the Riesling 2017 should be a perfect foil for a warming winter curry. Another fine match for spicy dishes is the interesting Rhonestyle white wine blend, in 2015 a 70/30 partnership of Viognier and Roussanne, a grape we don’t see nearly enough of in local white blends.

With a new and expanded tasting room under construction on the estate, the Sutherland range is more than enough reason to head for the Helshoogte this Spring.

Thelema Mountain Vineyards
021 885 1924

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