John Seccombe is the man behind Thorne and Daughters. John has a calm, reassuring presence, and a voice made for radio, and the locals – who can’t pronounce his name (it should be ‘secc-comm’) – know him as Seccom-bee.
John met his wife Tasha while they were both studying at Stellenbosch, and after they got married they moved to the UK. Here, John, who had been working as a computer dude, switched careers to work in restaurants, and – bitten by the wine bug – ended up studying winemaking at Plumpton College in Sussex. He began doing vintage around the world, and set up a consulting company servicing the UK’s expanding wine industry.
In 2008, Tasha and John moved back to South Africa, and John did vintage at Thelema before being recruited as winemaker for Iona in Elgin. Before long, though, he wanted to set up his own project, and Thorne & Daughters was born in 2012.
His project is mainly focused on white blends, which he does really well. Winemaking is sensitive and pretty natural, and where necessary he’ll do a bit of skin contact. ‘For me, Clairette and Semillon have the right soft tannins that work well with skin fermentation,’ he says. But the key is good vineyard sources. The main wine is Rocking Horse, which is now around 12 000 bottles a year, and the other lines are 1200-2300 bottles. ‘As we find vineyards that we can work with we open up new ideas,’ says John. In 2016 he made 18 000 bottles. The wines are made at Gabrielskloof, which is also home to Peter-Allan Finlayson and Marelise Niemann, and the three work well together.
Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2017 Western Cape, South Africa
A blend of Semillon/Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc/Clairette and Roussanne. Supple and fresh with sweet pear and citrus fruit. Textured and pure with some brightness. Lovely wine. 94/100 (02/18)
Thorne and Daughters Rocking Horse 2016 Western Cape, South Africa
Semillon, Chardonnay, Clairette, Roussanne and Chenin Blanc. Really fresh and lively with lemon, tangerine, wax and spice notes as well as complex citrus fruit. Lovely acidity here with a bright, lively personality. Complex and taut. 93/100 (03/17)
Thorne and Daughters Paper Kite Old Vine Semillon 2015 Franschhoek, South Africa
This comes from Basil Landau’s 1905-planted Semillon vineyard in Franschhoek. Fine, textured and a bit spicy. Nice density to the lemon and pear fruit with some waxy notes. There’s a hint of wax and some lanolin, with a bit of mandarin and a saline twist on the finish. Really fine. 94/100 (02/18)
Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Old Vine Semillon 2016 Western Cape, South Africa
Semillon Blanc from two old vine vineyards. One in the Swartland, planted in 1964, with 5% Gris in it. The other is La Colline, in Franschhoek. There’s a creamy edge to the direct, pithy citrus fruit. Lovely acidity with great concentration and freshness, as well as a bit of structure. Some green tea hints. So good. 94/100 (03/17)
Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Old Vine Semillon 2017 Swartland, South Africa
56 year old Semillon vines have yielded a very fine, harmonious wine with citrus fruit, a hint of toast, white peach and pear notes. Such harmony and finesse here. 95/100 (02/18)
Thorne & Daughters Tin Soldier 2016 Western Cape, South Africa
Semillon Blanc and Semillon Gris, destemmed and skin fermented for 7-10 days and aged in old oak. Some Franschhoek and some Swartland. Full yellow colour. Lovely intensity here with lively, pithy lemon and pear fruit with nice grip to the lively fruit. Has depth and structure. A bit of green tea and lime oil. 94/100 (03/17)
Thorne & Daughters Zoetrope Chardonnay 2014 Overberg, South Africa
12.5% alcohol. From clay shale soils, fermented in old oak. Some oatmeal and spice here as well as ripe citrus and pear fruit. Subtly nutty, too. Refined and expressive with lovely weight. 94/100 (02/18)
Thorne & Daughters Wandering Heart 2017 Western Cape, South Africa
40% Cinsault, 10% Mourvedre and 50% Grenache. Early picked with light extraction. So pure and fine with lovely fresh raspberry and strawberry fruit. Elegant and supple with a juicy, bright personality and fine spiciness. 94/100 (02/18)
Thorne & Daughters Driftwood Boat 2016 Western Cape, South Africa
Grenache from Bot River and the Voor Paardeberg, Cinsualt from the Bottelary and Mourvedre from Gabrielskloof. 40% whole bunch, destemmed on top. ‘One of our fights is to get the growers to pick the Grenache when we think it’s ripe, not when they think it is ripe,’ says John. Floral and perfumed with lovely fresh, supple raspberry and cherry fruit. Fresh, vital, grippy and a bit peppery with nice focus. Fine, powdery tannin and good acidity. Lovely stuff, with freshness and brightness. 94/100 (03/17)
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com
UK agent: Dreyfus Ashby