Thelema Merlot 1998 vs 1999
By Christian Eedes, 15 February 2021
Sustained heat during the 1998 harvest was meant to have led to big, robust wines with plenty of fruit but also rather tough tannins while 1999, while also a warm vintage, supposedly gave juicier wines with softer tannins.
This conventional wisdom was borne out when drinking these two vintages of Merlot from Stellenbosch property Thelema recently.
The nose of the 1998 (apparently containing 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and possessing an alcohol of 14.5%) showed undergrowth, earth and dark berries while the palate was full-bodied, the tannins still grippy, the finish long and savoury. A slight sense that the tannins won’t soften or resolve before all the fruit has faded. CE’s rating: 90/100.
In the case of the 1999, much more sweet fruit to the fore on the nose and palate – both red and black berries. Luscious, fresh and less imposing tannins than its immediate predecessor (alcohol: 14%). CE’s rating: 92/100.
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