Thelema Cape Independent Winemakers Guild Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1990

By , 14 February 2022

On Friday, a vertical tasting spanning the 2000 to 2018 vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch property Thelema.

There is a sense in many quarters that the measure of alcohol by volume for local wines is trending inexorably up. This is born out in the case of Thelema Cab but it is not happening in a smooth progression as the graph below shows (average over the 19 years: 14.18%):

Moreover, it is difficult to say how much alcohol level correlates to wine quality, 2003 with lowest abv of 13.58% and 2011 with the highest at 14.72% were two of the best wines on show for me. The 2017 with an abv of 14.5% was probably the pick of the day with lovely clarity and depth of fruit while 2018 at 13.83% is certainly lighter-bodied and perhaps destined to always be a little awkward (my other picks were: 2006, 2009, 2014 and 2015).

Once the vertical was complete, proprietor Gyles Webb treated those assembled to a taste of his Cape Independent Winemakers Guild Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1990. On the nose, red and black berries, just a hint of mint, tea leaf, mushroom and caramel while the palate was still very much alive – light but very detailed. Delicate and harmonious, it showed supremely well (rating: 97/100). And the alcohol? 12.5%.


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