By now, the Sadie Family needs no introduction. Their range includes cutting-edge examples of our most characterful wines – wines that have revolutionised the South African landscape and inspired a whole generation of winemakers. They aim to make the most honest wines possible, to focus and to constantly improve their vineyards and, in turn, raise the quality of their grapes and better their wines.
The drought conditions continue to decimate the vineyards so volumes are again down by 30 – 60% with virtually no Kokerboom and ‘T Voetpad available this year. As in the past, the Mev. Kirsten is still extremely limited.
The 2016 Columella has less Syrah than previous vintages and will need a good amount of time in bottle to show its true potential. It is a classic release – a touch darker than the 2015 but showing the continuously refined elegance of recent releases. The 2016 Palladius follows the same simple frame of the last few vintages. Now completely unwooded, it captures the Swartland with its blend of 11 varieties. See full notes on these below.
‘Our initial feelings and observations of the 2017 harvest were that the grapes definitely came in with much lower levels of ripeness and acidity; and in general we were of the view that the wines would have a more limited longevity than usual: the new equilibrium suggested simpler wines with a lesser inner core structure and weight. And yet, as the 2017 vintage continued ageing in the casks, clay and concrete vats it became evident that the wines were punching way above their weight.
In general the alcohol levels are a level lower than before by around 0,5%. It is only in the very northern territories of the Olifantsrivier where the usual level of ripeness of the grapes was maintained, but in the Swartland there was a definite reduction. The acidities are lower and again on average by 0.5 grams per litre; and it actually makes for earlier drinkability on the 2017 wines, not being a bad thing at all as many of the other vintages prior to 2017 need to stay under cork for a significant period of time.’ – Eben Sadie
Columella 2016 – R 865
Our Signature Red, the Columella, is aged for 1 year longer in cask and tank prior to bottling, thus being a 2016 vintage and a wine with immense promise. This Columella has a much deeper colour and concentration and is still very compact and in need of obvious ageing, but it is already showing great complexity in that the aromatics are not a singular line, but the coming together of many aspects. The aromas are a combination of bright fresh red fruits which then pass over to the riper black stone fruit. The wine is also very earthy and seems to live on a bed of freshly ploughed earth – and then there is the appearance of much darker graphite aromatics as well. The texture is still super compact and needs time: it is the result of 12 months ageing in barrels (8% new) and thereafter an additional 12 months in old, big oval casks. We bottle directly from the cask and the philosophy is to have minimum impact on the character of the grapes and rather just have the fruit express itself. – Eben Sadie
There is 48% Syrah in the 2016 – the lowest level yet with the idea, going forward, that it will play less of a starring role and allow for a more complex blend. The 2016 is a shade darker than the elegant 2015 – wonderfully fresh and pure when we tasted it in June. The nose is broad with gentle hints of darker fruit, hints of oak follows to a rich layered palate. The wine is both dark and brooding yet still fresh. This is classic Columella and requires at least 5 – 8 years for maturation before drinking. – James Pietersen
Palladius 2016 – R 755
This 2016 vintage of Palladius has the simplicity of minimalistic design with nothing that shouts out and every one of the 11 varietals that drive this wine just seems to be in perfect synchronization. The aromas are a journey of more tropical, ripe fruit aspects going all the way to a very saline and mineral texture. The most exciting aspect of this 2016 vintage is simply the length and the persistence of the tannin on the palate. This wine spends its first year of ageing in clay amphorae and in concrete eggs and then an additional year of ageing of the final blend in big oak casks. The result is incredible stability and the wine leaves one with the clear impression that the Palladius is on the very same level as the Columella and they can truly run together as Signatures. – Eben Sadie
A blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Sémillon, Sémillon Gris, Viognier, Clairette Blanche, Roussanne, Verdelho, Colombard and Palomino! This is the first Palladius that comes in under 13,5% alc. Brooding stone fruit, spice and a sense of quiet concentration is promised on the nose. The palate is focused, super-complex and clearly still very young. This is a finely-tuned expression of Swartland fruit where the sunnier varieties like Viognier, Marsanne, etc. are reined in whilst the more reductive varieties like the Palomino, Clairette, etc. are given a bit more breathing space leading to super complex wine with many pieces to a puzzle that require cerebral engagement. One of SA’s finest whites. – James Pietersen
The 2017 vintage in the Olifantsrivier region was also a challenge, but the advantage is the altitude at which this vineyard grows which brings a bit of a reduction of moisture stress. This vintage is an exhibition of bright red fruit like almost under-ripe cherries and strawberry flavours with even aspects of plums picked early. The tannins are softer and more integrated at this early stage in comparison to those of other years and the wine is extremely approachable – all indications are that it will vaporize out of cellars from the word go. – Eben Sadie
Grenache Noir from Piekenierskloof planted at 708m in the 1970s. The 2017 is, again, a little lighter in style than 2016 with a 13,3% alc. Fresh, bright and pretty with wild strawberry and florals leading on to a fine-grained tannic grip. Fermented and raised in concrete to ensure that it’s fresh and lively. Give it a year to settle. – James Pietersen
We picked the Cinsaut grapes in the Pofadder vineyard quite early and the result is a wine with an ultra-bright red fruit spectrum, almost like pomegranate seeds; and the fruit is very lifted in the glass. The tannins are still tight, steely – even crispy and granular, and the fruit is very much like the day we picked the grapes, therefore the wine still needs more time to develop in the bottle… or in the glass, where it develops some spicy aromatics when given the time to do so. Currently this 2017 presents itself as very-straight-down- the-line. – Eben Sadie
100% Cinsaut from the western side of the Kasteelberg, Swartland and made from 50+ year-old vines. Eben believes Cinsaut is one of SA’s best red grapes. Elegant in style with Pinot Noir-like tannins, firm but silky and fresh with vibrant acidity. The 2017 was my favourite red of this release. Potpourri spice and some Rhône-like notes on the nose, which follow on to a fresh, crunchy palate that seems to handle the earlier picking very well. Consistently one of SA’s finest examples of Cinsaut. Picked young but requires a little time in bottle before broaching. – James Pietersen
We had a very strong release in 2016 with this vineyard, but in our opinion the 2017 is even better and a big contender for being the wine of the vintage, simply in view of its overall complexity. The purity and the focus of the Tinta Barocca grape place it in many ways above more fashionable varieties in terms of ultra-quality wine. The general aromatics are still closed up and the wine needs time to unfold, but the general brightness of the fruit and some serious black stone fruit aromatics suggest that much more is to come from this wine – it is currently but revealing only a fraction of its true personality. The lower alcohol, lifted tannin and acidity make for a very savoury finish and a wine that can truly age. – Eben Sadie
Made from 47-year-old Tinta Barocca grown to the west of Malmesbury. The darkest and most serious of the reds, this is a wine of power and deep fruit with tight tannins that will need some serious time in bottle. This is a ‘must-age wine’ and best decanted when young. The tannins are similar to Nebbiolo – fine, dry and needing time to unfurl. Drink in 5 – 15 years and beyond. – James Pietersen
Mev. Kirsten 2017
The first impression on the nose of the Mev. Kirsten is always a sensation of almost stepping back into time and this 2017 truly lives up to the expectation. The aromatics in this vintage are very diverse and stretch from ripe Granny Smith apples all the way through to heavier, dried apricot characters. The wine is in a tug-of-war between ripe and barely ripe fruit and this tension and diverse character make for a most amazing wine for food pairings. This Mev. Kirsten is in almost two worlds in one. The wine has massive tannins and texture and can stand its ground in any space, but the very bright acidity and finesse in the end make for a soft landing. This vintage requires some years of cellaring prior to opening. – Eben Sadie
This revived Chenin block at the foot of Botmanskop was planted in 1920. It is SA’s oldest Chenin block. The 2017 was my standout wine in the Sadie tasting. It’s powerful with regal refinement, persistence and a long, long finish. An almost old-world nose leads to chalky tannins with texture and fresh focus. A wine of great stature that sits amongst the great wines of the world. Ageing this wine will be rewarding. At this stage it certainly requires decanting. – James Pietersen
This vineyard has such a signature to it and without fail the salty saline and mineral DNA print of the site is everywhere to be found in this wine. The 2017 vintage also has some slightly riper honey blossom characteristics and the fruit is quite compressed – and a notion of the quince fruit can also be found in the aromatics. The finish on the wine is of great length. Fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee. – Eben Sadie
70+ year-old Chenin blended with Palomino from Dwarskerbos and Elands Bay. This wine speaks of the arid place that is home to some of our most complex soils. A remarkable wine that always has a saline and crushed stone undercarriage to foil the ripe concentrated nose. The 2017 shows off with ripe, pure fruit, like dried pineapple, and follows through to a fine, breezy palate that is chalky and firm with a stunning focus. Always one of my favourites. – James Pietersen
Skurfberg fruit came in fully ripe in 2017 and produced a very serious wine in the Chenin arena. The aromatics are very spicy, white pepper with some flinty tones that then cross over into again the stone fruit aromas of apples and pear skin. There is also a minerality that is running throughout the wine and not only on the aromatics, but it carries through to the palate. This wine needs a serious plate of food. – Eben Sadie
100% Chenin Blanc planted in the 1950s in the Skurfberg Mountains, Olifants River. This is possibly SA’s finest vineyard. Remarkably open on the nose with orange blossom, citrus, spice and crushed pebbles that lead on to a beautifully concentrated palate with a rich and balanced finish cut by natural acidity. Long and delicious with a slight tannic grip adding firmness to the finish. – James Pietersen
‘T Voetpad 2017 (Not available)
This is also a strong contender for wine-of-the-vintage for just being so complex from the word go. The aromatics start off in the quince and restrained aspects and then move over into bigger white stone fruit aspects. The Semillon component is prominent with a waxy lanolin dynamic, being much more apparent than in normal years. The wet straw helm characteristics normally present in ‘T Voetpad is also very prominent in this vintage. The wine is extremely well-textured and has a very long finish and the most perfect equilibrium in the mouth feel. – Eben Sadie
A field-blend on the north-west side of the Piquetberg Mountains first planted in 1887 – making it SA’s oldest vineyard. Sémillon, the star of the show, blended with Sémillion Gris, Palomino, Muscat and Chenin Blanc. There is a seamless balance to this wine, as if it is all of one piece, which suggests that these varieties growing alongside each other for so long find it easy to reach their own equilibrium. Just delicious! Complex with loads of fruit but fine acidity and a savoury line as a counter. Drink 3 – 6 years from vintage. Sadly one of the vineyards most effected by the drought. – James Pietersen
Kokerboom 2017 (Not available)
In 2017 we also picked the Semillon Blanc and Gris earlier than our traditional picking dates and the wine in itself displays a much more compact structure; and the aromas start off being very spicy with ginger aspects and then grow and become more herbal. There are even some baked guava flavours that is compressed by waxy characteristics. It is for sure a fresher version of this vineyard in a bottle. – Eben Sadie
Sémillion Blanc and Sémillon Gris from Trekpoort Kloof, Olifants River. This 90+ year-old vineyard has stood the test of time. Picked earlier than usual due to the tough vintage conditions, the 2017 is much tighter with a slightly more ‘natural’ character than usual. Still a bit awkward when tasted, this is very much a vintage that should be allowed to settle before broaching. A wine that clearly shows the constraints of the vintage. – James Pietersen