Thorne & Daughters, Western Cape

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It was Chris Alheit who introduced me to John ‘Thorne’ Seccombe, at the time when this maiden release was maturing quietly in barrel at the Alheit cellar.

Johannesburg born, John met Tasha at university in Stellenbosch. He was studying maths and computer science, she was a fine art student. They moved to the UK in the early 2000s and John took up a position with an Oxford-based computer virus company, working in a bar at the same time. In 2003, they moved to Edinburgh, with John working front of house at Oloroso (which sadly no longer exists), before taking the plunge and entering a winemaking course at Plumpton College in 2004, taking a part-time job at Majestic to help fund his studies. At the same time, he was gaining experience by working stages in Barossa, the Languedoc and California as well as consulting for Ridgeview in the South Downs.

When Tasha fell pregnant in 2008, they decided the time was right to move back to the Cape and John immediately got a position working the harvest at Thelema, before moving onto Iona in 2009. Apart from making wine in the Cape, John also works the harvest in Alsace every year with Julien Schaal.

The Thorne & Daughters project started at the back-end of 2012, with John and Tasha taking inspiration for the names of the wines from their two young daughters. The grapes are all sourced on contract, using Rosa Kruger as a conduit to finding some of the oldest and most interesting vines the Cape has to offer.

The ‘Rocking Horse’ is a Cape white blend, but rather than using Chenin as the central variety, John has elected to lead with Roussanne, incorporating both Chardonnay and Semillon along the way. The grapes were sourced from vineyards in the Overberg, Franschhoek, Voor-Paardeberg and Stellenbosch. With the South African allocation sold out within two weeks of being launched, it wasn’t long before the jokes about the wine being as ‘rare as rocking horse shit’ came into existence.

Even rarer, if that’s possible, is Tin Soldier. Unique, in South Africa, at least, is red Semillon (or Semillon Gris) from 30 year old trellised vines found in the Wemmershoek valley, close to Franschhoek. No other vineyard in the world is believed to exist. It’s a natural mutation, where one finds both red and white berries on the same plant. The whole crop from this particular site found its way into the Tin Soldier, and even when blended with 50% ‘white’ Semillon the result was just three barrels. Fermented on its skins for ten days like a red wine, it’s something of a curiosity but certainly worth seeking out. For those who might be familiar with the Pineau d’Aunis grape, the wine appears to share the same white pepper profile.

Whilst the first vintage was made in Hermanus, the 2014 vintage migrated to Elgin and the cellar at Almenkerk. Plans for the 2015 vintage will see another move to Gabrielskloof, at the invitation of friend, Peter Allan-Finlayson, who has just moved there as resident winemaker.

Website: thorneanddaughters.com

Thorne and Daughters Paper Kite Old Vine Semillon 2015 pack shot
Thorne and Daughters Tin Soldier Semillon 2015 pack shot
Thorne and Daughters Tin Soldier Semillon 2013 pack shot fiche
Thorne and Daughters Rocking Horse Cape White 2015 pack shot fiche
Thorne and Daughters Rocking Horse Cape White 2013 pack shot fiche