Thelema Releases iconic Rabelais From Legendary 2015 Vintage

Friday, 26 April, 2019
Thelema Mountain Vineyards
The refined elegance of the Stellenbosch wine region’s cool 2015 vintage comes to the fore in the latest offering of Rabelais, the iconic red wine blend from Thelema Mountain Vineyards.

According to Thelema winemaker Rudi Schultz the Rabelais blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot represents the finest fruit selection and terroir expression from this venerable Stellenbosch estate on the slopes of the renowned Simonsberg.

“The fact that 2015 is one of the best vintages in the history of Stellenbosch was emphasised  at the end of last year with the release of some amazing wines, and at Thelema we are pleased to experience this in the Rabelais, our flagship wine,” says Schultz. “The 2015 vintage has really done something special for Stellenbosch and South Africa, allowing producers of especially Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wines the opportunity to collectively offer a selection of wines for which the term ‘greatness’ can be used. The Rabelais 2015 is a definitely a part of this.”

Since the wine’s maiden 2007 vintage Rabelais has gained recognition as one of Stellenbosch’s flagship Bordeaux-inspired wines. It draws its name after François Rabelais, a monk, doctor and writer in sixteenth-century France who imagined a utopian abbey on the banks of the Loire. In stark contrast to the religious orders of his day, this community admitted both men and women and encouraged them to live together in great luxury. Only one law governed its members: “Fay ce que vouldras” - Do what thou wilt!

This was the Abbey of Thélème, which ultimately lent its name to the vineyard on the slopes of the Simonsberg: Thelema.

The packaging displays a vision of the utopian Abbey of Thélème: the giant Gargantua, the flowing of wine, books flying (free minds!) and a place where there are no rules. Instead of using typical twentieth-century imagery, the artwork created is colourful and contemporary, which is more suited to Rabelaisian ideals; a feeling of freedom, unlimited time, uniqueness and dreams.

Of the wine itself, Schultz says the blend is made from meticulously selected parcels of grapes, representing the best red fruit the estate has to offer.

“Both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot components are from low-yield vines of six tons per hectare, vines are 14 years old and lie between 430m and 480m above sea-level,” says Schultz. “Planted on Hutton soils and the decomposed granite for which the Simonsberg region is so well-known, both varieties achieve superb varietal expression, led by Cabernet Sauvignon for which Thelema has become especially well-known.”

The 2015 vintage is known for its cool, even growing season where grapes ripened in balance and harmony, leading to exceptional quality grapes.

“Aiming to present the finest red wine Thelema is capable of, the grapes for the Rabelais blend were put through a berry-by-berry selection process,” he says. “After de-stalking and sorting, the fruit was crushed and given a cold-soak for two days. Spontaneous fermentation was done over five days with pump-overs, twice daily.”

Once fermentation had completed, the wine was left on the skins for two days before pressing and racking to barrel for malolactic fermentation.

“The components used in our Rabelais blend were aged in 100% new 36 month dried, extra tight grain French oak barrels.”says Schultz. “We age the blend for 18 months after which it is given plenty of bottle maturation to ensure the wine is market ready upon its release.

“Although the quality of the fruit and the focussed cellar process will ensure the Rabelais ages magnificently for between ten and 15 years, we like it to be approachable upon release as this is what the majority of today’s consumers seek.”

The Thelema Rabelais 2015 shows classic Cabernet Sauvignon characteristics of black fruit, pine needles and pencil-shavings with earthy, fynbos-driven nuances. This is off-set by the perfume and succulence from the Petit Verdot component, making for a superb expression of classically inspired red wine excellence.

Thomas Webb, commercial director of Thelema Mountain Vineyards, says Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon-led blends have remained at the foundation of Thelema’s offerings since the estate’s first vintages were released just over 30 years ago.

“Stellenbosch and the Simonsberg were not as known for their extensive range of Cabernet Sauvignon wines as they are today nor had the region become as famous for this grape variety as it is today,” says Webb. “Besides it having been a great journey, it has been a tremendous honour for Thelema to be a part of the evolution of Simonsberg and Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon. We have never doubted the ability of this region’s mountainous terroir to produce Cabernet Sauvignon providing a genuine taste-of-place. Thelema has been one of the pioneers in this regard, and we are proud to be an integral part of the Stellenbosch Cabernet Collective that is now promoting the region’s wines made from this variety to the rest of the world as among the best wines South Africa has to offer.”

Rudi Schultz Thelema winemaker
Rudi Schultz Thelema winemaker

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