Thamnus Wines: This is where rare terroir makes for marvellous wines

Thamnus Wines Pinot Noir

By Renate Engelbrecht

Tuesday, Apr 23

It was early afternoon on a busy Parkhurst streetcorner. The stack doors of Embarc Restaurant had been thrown open to let the air flow freely, with it having been one of the hottest pre-autumn days in Joburg. I was there for the official launch of a wine I’d never heard of before – Thamnus Wines – and I was curious and excited all at the same time.

Thamnus Wines’ name refers to the rare, yet exquisite Orothamnus Zeyheri. It is a rare mountain rose that forms part of the fynbos species and it grows only in two places: On the Thamnus Farm in the Klein Rivier Mountains of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, and in the nearby Kogelberg nature reserve. Being restricted to these areas makes it so rare. Much like Thamnus Wines, it has a specialist habitat and a small total population.

Thamnus Wines at Embarc Restaurant

Winemaker PJ Geyer is renowned in the winemaking world. He has worked vintages at Washington Hills Callars in the USA, as well as Villa Maria Estate in New Zeeland. Thereafter, he joined the well-known Moueix family (Chateau Petrus) as flying winemaker, assisting with harvests at Chateau Mazeyres, Fonroque and Moulin du Cadet. Ultimately, his winemaking philosophy is based on his French heritage, striving for wines that exhibit finesse, elegance, balance and structure.

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Thamnus Wines launch

At Thamnus, they practice regenerative farming by raising sheep alongside the vineyards. You see, PJ is actually from the Freestate and he admits that he enjoys wines that pair well with a lamb chop. In addition to the sheep, they plant cover crops with high biomass production in order to provide grazing for the sheep that in turn naturally fertilise the vines. It keeps living roots in the soil, reducing erosion, increasing water retention and improving soil health and biodiversity. Finally, this results in exceptionally healthy vines.

At Embarc, he paired his wines – currently consisting of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – with the restaurant’s delicious cuisine. He describes the Pinot Noir as a beautiful late developer – “serious and savoury in nature with black berries and cherries lining the nose.” In the French tradition it suggests “decadent in its youth or drink in 2032.”

UK Master of Wine, Tim Atkin had a lot to say about the Thamnus Chardonnay: “The Chardonnay I liked most was the 2021 from PJ Geyer under the Thamnus label. He rated the wine 95/100 in his recently released 2023 South Africa Special Report. “It showed real intensity, structure and weight without an ounce of flab – a Pieter-Steph du Toit kind of Chardonnay worth tackling,” he continued. Finally, he Atkin describes the wine as: “One of those wines that stops you in your tracks, this is a beautifully weighted Chardonnay from Bokkeveld shale soil. Bravo Pieter Jacobus Geyer!”

And, it is agreed. While still fairly young (the wine label was only launched three years ago), these are certainly wines worth talking about. What I loved most about tasting the three vintages of both the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir alongside each other, was that you could taste evolution in each. As PJ gets to know the farm, the terroir and the intricacies of the vine, each wine is different, while still holding that golden thread of the very unique Bokkeveld terroir.

If you can get your hands on a bottle of Thamnus Wines, I say buy it.

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