Wine of the week: a Rabelaisian delight

This South African red is one of the most elegant and luxurious wines of the year.

2017 Thelema Mountain Vineyards, Rabelais, Stellenbosch, South Africa 

£55, greatwineco.co.uk, goedhuis.com

This snippet of history from the Thelema website sets the scene for this truly magnificent wine. Here is an edited quote: “François Rabelais was a monk, doctor and writer (about wine among other subjects) in 16th-century France. He imagined a utopian abbey on the banks of the Loire, which admitted both men and women, encouraging them to live together in great luxury. Only one law governed its members: ‘Fay ce que vouldras’ – Do what thou wilt! This was, of course, the Abbey of Thélème.”

This was the inspiration for Gyles Webb’s estate on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, which he acquired back in 1983. Rabelais is the name of the top wine here and Gyles’s son Thomas sent me a bottle of this 2017 to taste a few weeks ago. It completely blew my mind. A highly sophisticated cabernet sauvignon/petit verdot blend, this is the most complex, controlled and intriguing cabernet blend I have tasted from the Cape. 

Layered and ultra-fine, this is a far cry from the powerhouse reds that usually hog the headlines. Even though it spends 20 months in 100% new French barriques, this is one of the most elegant and luxurious wines of the year. I have timed this article to coincide with its arrival from South Africa, so MoneyWeek readers get the steal on everyone else. As Rabelais said, “If the skies fall, one may hope to catch larks”. The sky seems to have been falling all year and this wine is a rare bird indeed.

Matthew Jukes is a winner of the International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Communicator of the Year (matthewjukes.com)

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