Thursday, March 14, 2019

Wine tasting and lunch at Thelema. Stellenbosch

You know how many good new wines and wineries we introduced to you over a year; all that new innovation, so different, so much hype and excitement? Yes those renaissance wines, those experimental wines... Well what is after the renaissance? Here is more big news. The classics are the ones we should pay attention to again. The benchmark wines of South Africa, those that have sustained, impressed, been at the forefront of our wine world here and abroad for decades gaining us kudos for our wines, won awards, earned big numbers from wine writers and judges, sold amazingly well and more importantly, are consistent. So, instead of going off at a new tangent, go back and take another look; you need reminding of how good they are, at what we love to drink and why. At what has continued to be enjoyed for many many years. These guys know what they are doing. They don't have to reinvent the wheel and do somersaults to get our attention. Familiar names you know and love. Think Beyerskloof, Meerlust, Kanonkop, Groot Constantia, Boschendal, KWV, Nederburg, Vergelegen, Lanzerac. Simonsig, Rustenberg and, of course, Thelema
This week we had this invitation to visit the farm and taste several older vintages of Thelema wines
matched with the new pre-release wines. And what an impressive tasting it was. It certainly makes one think
Winemaker Rudi Schultz welcomed us with a glass of their Brut MCC 2014, a classic blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
So crisp, so elegant, with lovely brioche age notes, lemon lime lean with a good mousse and so good for celebrations
Christine Rudman, Mel Minnaar and Malu Lambert talking to the dogs,
a matched pair of German Short haired pointers, such intelligent and friendly hounds
A table had been laid on the lawn where we would have had the tasting until the very welcome rain began to teem down
So we moved inside to the dining room. Julian Richfield and Fiona MacDonald with Malu and Mel on one side of the table
Angela Lloyd, Lynne, Graham Howe and Christine Rudman on the other
The line up of wines to taste
Thomas Webb took us through the tasting. He told us that Thelema produces 600 000 bottles of wine a year and they are known to be a reliable label, Thelema’s sales have been great over the last 2 years; people are buying quality wines. He thinks we should promote Stellenbosch Cabernets as the best SA produces
Our tasting sheet
Serious tasting concentration. Emile Joubert at the end
Rudi came to add comments about the winemaking
and a busy Gyles Webb popped in for a quick word
Chardonnay 2007 & 2016 We began with the 2007 Chardonnay. Golden in colour and fruit, some herbs, almost a terpene hint, acorn, peach wood with hints of fennel. Crisp complex and layered, wood is present, lovely crisp zing of lemon and lime, very elegant, rather Burgundian in style, mouth-watering and a food wine still.. Then the 2016 with herbal notes, white peach, wood smoke hint ending in nectarine. Rich full on the palate, silky with nectarine, lime, citrus, such length and depth, long, long flavours, with wood supporting, made to last and drinking perfectly now. Another food wine. R170 on the farm
Three Cabernets 1995, 2010, 2016 All impressed us. First we tasted the 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Yes, the one with the mint. Green tomato leaf nose for Lynne who doesn't get mint; herbal, bruléed berry fruit on the nose. Soft sweet fruit with some balsam on the palate, lovely cranberry cherry flavours. Still a good acid, fruit, wood balance and some more of that 'mint' on the end. Then the 2010 with cassis on the nose, richness, some tomato leaf hints, with complex layers of red and black berries, liquorice & a touch of salt. Dark chocolate, crisp red & black berries, long flavours nicely balanced with soft chalky tannin; still has years to go. The 2016 Cabernet has vanilla oak, rich fruit: berries and cherries, wood supports and no mint. Soft, sweet, seductive berry fruit, raspberry, red cherry, mulberry with nice soft grippy tannins; enjoyable now and just in waiting for the future reveal. A different clone from the two above. R275 on the farm
Rabelais 2010, 2015. This is a Bordeaux blend, Thelema's flagship wine and it is hard not to gush about it. So good. The 2010 is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Complex with incense wood, cassis berries, such elegance and promise on the nose, fulfilled when tasting. Sweet cassis berries, grippy powdery tannins are still present. It is amazing on the palate. The fruit is prominent and delicious, but so supported by tannin and wood. Will last for ages more. Still has a nice warm kick of alcohol. The 2015, made from Cabernet and Petit Verdot is complex with vanilla and dark berry fruit with violet perfume on the nose. Again, elegance with incense wood, lighter fruit than the previous wine, with cassis, vanilla and liquorice, grippy chalky tannins and herbs on the end
Time to move to the terrace, under shelter from the downpour but warm
A tray of bread to the table and wine is poured
The home farm terrace
Classic Parma ham and melon starter, dressed with garden flowers
The rain it raineth
Absolutely moreish baked figs, stuffed with mild goat’s cheese, with walnuts and rocket and a dollop of cranberry jelly
Lots of discussion around the table
Great match, the Sauvignon Blanc and the figs
It is crisp and lean with a bit of that old fashioned cats pee on a gooseberry bush. Wonderful
The food was served Family Style, so we helped ourselves to this mixed salad
with mixed leaves, avocado, olives , nuts and tomato
A huge platter of fresh asparagus, now in season
Glazed salmon fillet on a bed of black rice was delish
and went so well with the wines we had tasted and were drinking with lunch
And something special with lunch was the farm's own (not for sale) Muscat de Frontignan, made in 2000 and still in barrel. Bruléed spice from the wood, perfumed with grapey aromas, honey, cinnamon, it is thick, sweet and textured with a hit of ground pepper on the end. As they say in Sea Point, to die for
Giles is amused by what Mel is saying
Dessert was a smooth panna cotta topped with granadilla, raspberries, black berries and nougat
Well matched with the dessert wine
What a lovely colour too
A reflection of the natural world in the glass
The tall trees that surround the house and lawn
Father and son, Gyles and Thomas Webb. Thank you for showing us the past and the future and reminding us of how good your wines are, and will be

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