Thelema Mountain Vineyards
Gyles Webb was an accountant in Durban, but one day he walked into his local wine store bought a bottle of Puligny-Montrachet and experienced a light bulb moment - he had “never tasted anything like that”. This was at a time when there where very few dry white wines available in South Africa and so he abandoned his accountancy career to become a winemaker, qualifying in 1979. Gyles worked a vintage at the iconic Heitz winery in the Napa Valley, and was impressed by the Californian approach to winemaking which pushed boundaries, whilst South African winemaking was more conservative at the time. In 1983 he bought what was then a dilapidated fruit farm with his wife Barbara, whose family helped out financially. They restored the Cape Dutch manor house and the first wine was produced in 1988. You will find Thelema in a spectacular setting, on the south-easterly side of the Simonsberg Mountain at the top of the Helshoogte Pass 530 metres above sea level; these are some of the highest elevations and coolest vineyards in Stellenbosch. Gyles pioneered Thelema Mountain Vineyards, focusing on quality, and the open-minded approach to winemaking he had encountered in the US informed his own free-thinking philosophy. The name of his winery comes from the Abbey of Thélème, which features in a novel written by the 16th century French monk, physician and writer François Rabelais. In this utopian abbey both monks and nuns are admitted; there are no clocks but there is a swimming pool and maid service and only one rule “do what you wilt”! Rabelais is Thelema's flagship wine, named after this man who thought and wrote a lot about wine saying “Wine is the most civilised thing on earth” and “Never did a great man hate good wine” and, like Rabelais' writings, this Bordeaux blend wine is a masterpiece. Thelema cultivate Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Viognier, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Grenach, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon on rich red soils. The phoenix logo that adorns the Thelema Mountain Vineyards bottles symbolises the birth of Thelema, and it is also highly personal; there is a phoenix on the Webb family crest and his wife's family, the McLeans, owned the Phoenix Garden Hotel in Kimberley. By the mid 1990's Thelema wines had become among the most sought after in South Africa, and as Thelema flourished Gyles began the search for a second property, which he found in 2002 in the cool climate of Elgin, 70 kilometres south-east of Cape Town in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. This is South Africa's coolest wine region Situated in a unique location on a high plateau, the valley is surrounded on all sides by mountains. The wines from here are sold under the Sutherland label. The vineyards are planted just 9 kilometre from the Atlantic coast at an altitude of between 140 and 250 metres above sea level and in this environment Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Riesling, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Grenache are crafted into cool climate linear wines which are vinified and bottled at Thelema. A minimal approach is taken in the cellar to allow the character of the grapes and the true expression of the vineyards to shine though in each of the impeccable wines. Thelema has achieved international acclaim as one of South Africa's elite wine producers – they are an absolute Cape Classic!