Sutherland, the Elgin property belonging to well-known Stellenbosch winery Thelema Mountain Vineyards, has released its first Reserve Range of wines showcasing the finest elements of this farm that has been owned by Thelema since 2002. Consisting of three premium wines, the Sutherland Reserve Range comprises a Grenache and a Petit Verdot – cultivars not normally associated with Elgin – as well as the Reserve Chardonnay, a variety for which this region has become known as one of South Africa’s leading areas.
According to Gyles Webb, proprietor of Thelema Mountain Vineyards and Sutherland, the aim of the Sutherland Reserve Range is to highlight the potential of the Elgin property and to showcase the best terroir expression since the first wines from the farm were released in 2005.
“Our initial Sutherland vineyards included the varieties my instincts led me to planting in cool-climate Elgin, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Viognier and Chardonnay,” says Webb. “On the red side we began growing Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Grenache, but as any wine farmer knows it takes over a decade of working with grapes from a new region to find out what does exceptionally well in that area’s geography.”
These findings, are, says Webb, showcased in the Sutherland Reserve Range which includes two wines not as-of-yet associated with Elgin, namely Petit Verdot and Grenache.
“Selecting the Chardonnay for the Reserve Range was a bit of a no-brainer. The cool climate, Tukulu soils and the proximity to the ocean that lies nine kilometres away makes for about as ideal a South African Chardonnay site as one could wish for,” says Webb. “As for Petit Verdot and Grenache, well, I planted these at Sutherland as the varieties make wines I just love to drink, and the resulting fruit is producing wines that exceed my expectations.”
The Sutherland Reserve Range’s Chardonnay and Grenache are from the 2016 vintage, while the Petit Verdot was made in 2015.
According to Thelema and Sutherland winemaker Rudi Schultz, the grapes for the Sutherland Reserve Range are hand-picked and transported to the Thelema winery in Banhoek for vinification.
“As our standard Sutherland range has shown, Elgin Chardonnay is exceptional, and for the Reserve Range we identified 12 barrels from the 2016 vintage showing outstanding site-expression, structure and aging ability,” says Schultz. “This is a classic Burgundian-styled wine with bright elegance wrapped in a cloak of complexity one would expect from a serious Chardonnay. It is truly a great addition to Thelema and Sutherland’s Chardonnay portfolio, which has garnered an outstanding reputation.”
Of the Sutherland Reserve Grenache 2016, Schultz says the wine comes to the market at a time when the interest in Grenache is increasing due to the quality of South African expressions of this variety as well as the juicy, spicy drinking enjoyment it offers consumers.
“Grown on Glenrosa soils, this Elgin Grenache benefits from slow ripening allowing balanced and concentrated flavours,” he says. “Once in the winery, the wine was naturally fermented as we believe this brings out this variety’s character the best, and it was aged in older barrels for 17 months. The wine is, to my mind, a great contribution to South African Grenache spectrum and originating from Elgin, is unique in its own right.”
Relatively rare as a single cultivar wine, the Sutherland Reserve Petit Verdot 2015, is the third wine in the Sutherland Reserve Range. Schultz says the exceptional quality of the 2015 vintage and Gyles Webb’s love for Petit Verdot opened the door for this single varietal bottling.
“We saw some early rain during the 2015 Elgin harvest, leading to a slow ripening season and superb, quality fruit at harvest,” says Schultz. “Petit Verdot is known for its power, and we exposed the crushed grapes to natural yeast fermentation. The fermented wine got the full classic treatment of 18 months in new 225l barrels, and the result is a wine which we believe is a game changer for Petit Verdot as a single South Africa variety. Inky dark in colour, muscular structure with a seductive perfume, brooding fruit flavours and exceptional drinkability.”
According to Webb, the Sutherland Reserve Range aims to highlight the complete Sutherland range including the developments and progress that has been made in Elgin since the first 2005 vintage.
“It is a truly special place from which to make wine and we are privileged having Sutherland to complement the Thelema range,” he says. “In a nut-shell, the Sutherland Reserve Range reds are unusual as well as being delicious so they will find interested buyers, while the Chardonnay is just plain classy, in an understated Burgundian style. If it moves too slowly in the market, I’ll drink it myself!”
All three wines in the Sutherland Reserve Range are priced at R300 each available from Cybercellar.com