One of the most noticeable things about Thorngrove, aside from the lovely wines, is the wonderful attention to detail and how the wines tell the story of the winemaker’s heritage.
I’ve always been a sucker for beautiful packaging…but, as a designer, when the design holds this much thoughtfulness it’s more than just pretty – it shows the commitment and consideration that lies inside each bottle.
The charming illustration of the tree speaks to the winemaker, Graham William’s, Celtic heritage. The foiling is a nod to the rare Welsh Gold, that’s often thought of as being rose gold because of the copper that’s mined alongside it – and that was traditionally used for royal wedding rings. And Thorngrove is the name of the road where Graham once lived. It’s beautiful how so many parts of his own heritage have been woven into the Thorngrove brand.
What began as an innocent garagiste 50L Shiraz hobby has now expanded to a 5000L range of boutique wines made with focus and intention – working closely with the grape farmers, and moving out of his garage into an accredited and sustainable cellar in Riebeek Kasteel.
Here are my top 3 wines tasted one sunny morning with Graham and Han Drinks Solo:
Lady Grey 2020:
Graham chose to start telling us his story with the Cabernet Sauvignon called Lady Grey, the original name for the town of McGregor and from which the grapes for this wine were sourced. It’s not often that I start a morning tasting with Cab…but he chose well!
Although serious and structured with secondary notes of smoke, leather and vanilla; the red fruit dominant raspberries, cherries, guava peel and red plums, along with darker blackberries, have smooth medium+ tannins that make this wine instantly approachable despite its youth. The long mineral and salty finish is notable, but even more so is the freshness, brightness and juiciness of this Cabernet.
Balance (1) + Length (1) + Intensity (½) + Complexity (½) = A very good wine
Drink now, but definitely suitable for further ageing that would most likely add to the complexity of this wine. For the record, I sipped this over 3 days…and just realised there was a half glass left today…day 6. Of course I poured it and tasted it – and the rich smoky black fruits are more prominent than ever.
Iber 2020 Tempranillo:
It’s not often you come across Tempranillo in South Africa, so I was most keen to try this wine made from a tiny block of 30 year old bush-vines in Malmesbury in the Swartland. It’s named after the river Iber that flows over 900 km across Northern Spain through La Rioja. With only 150 wines bottled, it’s no surprise to find out that this wine is close to sold out.
The most beautiful vibrant ruby colour with a very dark centre, and a fairly pronounced nose that’s immediately savoury as well as fruity. Tomato leaf, sundried tomatoes, juicy dark cherries and raspberries, nutmeg, cloves, sweet cherry tobacco, light vanilla and salty leather.
Dry, medium+ plush bodied, fantastic acidity, medium+ slightly grainy tannins, and a long finish of red berries, pomegranates, prickly pear fruit, boozy kirsch, as well as earthy beetroot. There’s some heat involved, but not enough to be unbalanced.
Balance (1) + Length (1) + Intensity (½) + Complexity (1) = A very good wine
Drink now, but absolutely suitable for further ageing.
My Rioja budget is limited, so this is a big step up in quality for me.
Thorngrove Shiraz 2018 and 2020:
I’d argue that these could easily be renamed to Syrah. The delicious and complex savouriness of these wines speaks to Graham’s knowledge of the Rhône, and proves the relationship he’s formed with the grape – finding a way to express his own Syr…Shiraz story for the last 8 years.
The 2020, from an 18 year old block of vines below Kasteelberg Mountain in Riebeek Kasteel, leads with a savoury leather and charcuterie nose, combined with pretty violet florals and juicy blackberries, and very surprising lack of rotundone. But the palate is an explosion of juicy dark berries, chocolate, coffee, fennel and aniseed, some herbals, and even ripe oranges on the long, lingering and constantly evolving finish.
Which was all just a sneak peek at what Graham hopes will develop similarly to his 2018 Syrah, the wine from Voorgroenberg in Wellington, which was my favourite of the day. I’d written down that the wine was ‘surprisingly tertiary’ for a 2018, as a result of the initially slightly reductive nose that was all meaty leathery goodness to me. The 2018 palate being far less fruity than it’s younger brother (or is that sister?). Mocha, spices, smoke, leather ride along the ever present bright acidity and resolve with long and lingering vegetal olives.
Viti + Vini:
All three wines were harvested in the early morning to protect the quality of the grapes, hand sorted to remove MOG, and then the grapes were kept in cold storage for 3 days.
Crushed and destemmed (for the 2020 Syrah, 10% of the grapes were included as whole bunches to improve the aroma and flavour richness, with the rest crushed and de-stemmed), and then kept for short period under a blanket of inert gas to improve colour and flavour before innoculation. Post fermentation maceration for an additional period before being basket pressed and matured in 31% new French oak for 12 months.
Light filtering and no fining or stabilisation before bottling.
Juiciness and a lengthy finish are recurring themes for the fleet of Thorngrove wines. Although I had no expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality produced by this boutique winery. The other thing that you’ll notice is how wonderfully the wines evolve…we’d sip and chat, then sip and have so much more to chat about as the wines were exposed to more air. A sure sign that all these wines are good investments for the future.