Thamnus is the new wine on the block

16 Apr 2024
Roaming sheep, an olive grove, and the buzz of busy beehives alongside vineyards set at the highest point of the Western Cape's dramatic Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. It sounds idyllic.

This is the home of Thamnus Wines, an up-and-coming winery. If you are a fan of fine food you can spot the distinctive, wine-splashed label at some of South Africa’s best restaurants, wine shops, and wine bars. Fyn, Foxcroft, Pot Luck Club, and Riku Chef’s Encounter in Cape Town all stock it, and having recently launched in Joburg, the wines are now available for your sampling pleasure at The Saxon and Mr Pants.

Thamnus gets its name from the rare and pretty fynbos marsh rose, Orothamnus zeyheri, endemic to the exquisite Kogelberg biosphere and the farm. “It’s very picky about where it grows, so if the marsh rose selects our farm to grow… that’s something very special,” says Ross Hobbs, MD at Thamnus Wines.
Thamnus chardonnay. Photo: Supplied.

The farm dates back to the 17th century, and Thamnus’s owners are fixed on regenerative farming. The vines were planted 14 years ago, and we had a chance to taste the maiden vintage, a 2021 chardonnay and pinot noir. The team talk about it as having gone back to their roots.

Winemaker PJ Geyer has notched up 40 harvests – starting by assisting with a harvest at Hamilton Russell Vineyards, before becoming the assistant winemaker at Springfield Estate. His credentials include having worked vintages at Washington Hills Cellars (USA) and Villa Maria Estate (New Zealand), before joining the well-known Moueix family (Château Petrus) as flying winemaker assisting with harvests at Château Mazeyres, Fonroque, and Moulin du Cadet. His winemaking has a distinct French influence. 

Geyer points out that people talk so much about the terroir and its impact on the wine but, “they never emphasise the human factor, which is incredibly important for the French. It’s the people involved that are so instrumental”. 
Thamnus pinot noir. Photo: Supplied.

Geyer was born in the Free State and is the resident Thamnus sheep farmer, viticulturist (specialising in the cultivation and harvesting of grapes), and winemaker. His connection to the land is palpable. He says he wanted a pinot noir he could enjoy with a lamb chop. The result is a wine he describes as "a beautiful late developer" that is "serious and savoury with blackberries and cherries lining the nose”.

Thamnus wine farm is building a new cellar and tasting room, and visits are by appointment only. So if you are en route between Hermanus and Caledon we suggest you call to book your stop. Thamnus produces pinot noir and chardonnay, focusing on quality, rather than quantity, with just 5,000 bottles of each annually making their way from the farm.

We did a vertical tasting of the Thamnus chardonnay 2021, 2022, and 2023 (the 2022 and 2023 have yet to be released) and a tasting of the Thamnus pinot noir 2021 and 2022. The wines were paired with a superb tasting menu by Darren Donovan at Parkhurst’s fine-dining gem Embarc. The cherry richness burst out of the pinot noir, while the chardonnay was rich and textured, said to be a result of high acidity from the grapes spending less time on the vine (which means lower in sugar). 
A Thamnus wine pairing at Embarc. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

The farm's slopes are north-facing, which means the grapes enjoy 11 hours of sunlight compared to their counterparts in the valley that soak up around seven. Geyer is set against adding anything to his wines, using nature as his guide to create what he calls "superior tastes".

The farm’s unique terroir has prompted the Thamnus Wines team to look to have it rezoned as a standalone ward – named after the Hartebeest River, which flows nearby. It's currently classified as part of the Overberg region.

The chardonnay is in its prime but has a few more years to enjoy, whereas the pinot noir can be enjoyed now or still improve with age for a good eight years or so in the cellar. If you're looking to buy a bottle, specialist local stockist Wine Menu in Kramerville is your go-to in Joburg.

We have one bottle of pinot noir and one bottle of chardonnay Thamnus Wines to give away. Enter our Instagram competition and you can win one of two bottles.


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