While the 2013 vintage of Rabelais from Stellenbosch property Thelema was best wine overall in the Cape Bordeaux Red Blend Report 2017 with a rating of 94 on the 100-point quality scale, the current-release 2014 vintage received a rating of 88 when this year’s report was released in June.
What to make of the divergence in ratings between the two vintages? When Thelema announced that winemaker Rudi Schultz would be presenting a tutored tasting of a selection of vintages of Rabelais, I was keen to attend in order to re-visit the wines.
Schultz showed the CWG Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003 (a prototype of Rabelais) plus the 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014. Tasting notes and ratings as follows:
Thelema CWG Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol: 13.49%. Red and black fruit, hints of mint and other herbs, tobacco and earth. Still extraordinarily youthful with juicy fruit, fresh acidity and fine tannins, the finish long and dry.
Editor’s rating: 94/100.
Thelema Rabelais 2009
80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot and 5% Merlot. Alcohol: 14.59%. Some floral perfume before red and black fruit and pencil shavings. Excellent fruit concentration, fresh acidity and fine tannins – smooth textured in the best sense. Full but balanced, this is showing very well right now.
Editor’s rating: 92/100.
Thelema Rabelais 2010
86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Petit Verdot. Alcohol: 14.33%. Dark fruit, vanilla and spice on the nose. Ever so slightly sweet and a bit awkward – hollow mid-palate, astringent on the finish.
Editor’s rating: 89/100.
Thelema Rabelais 2013
90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. Alcohol: 13.5%. Red and black fruit, fresh herbs (although the overall impression is none too green) plus hints of vanilla and spice. Relatively medium bodied with fresh acidity and fine tannins – has real energy about it and produces a lovely lip-smacking sensation.
Editor’s rating: 94/100.
Thelema Rabelais 2014
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot. Alcohol: 14.67%. A brooding nose with notes of dark fruit, earth and pencil shavings. Very full bodied and seemingly quite heavily extracted – dense and currently ungiving.
Editor’s rating: 90/100.
Some observations: The wines I liked most were the 2003 and 2013 which both happened to have alcohols of below 14%. Next to the other vintages, a score of 88 for the 2014 seemed unkind but not wildly off – it’s a brute of wine with plenty of weight and structure and will no doubt benefit from some bottle maturation. That said, the 2013 is truly elegant and composed.
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