The Sadie Family Wines are our first South African producer. I am ashamed to say my knowledge of South African history is scant, save for a boyhood interest in the Anglo-Zulu Wars of 1879. I have a first edition of the tragic masterpiece, The Washing of the Spears, by Donald Morris. My mother bought this for me and it is my most treasured book.
We bought the Sadie wines on reputation, without the benefit of prior tasting. It is not always possible to try before you buy, but the story of the producer, and the vineyards they work compelled us. Sometimes, this scenario leads to disappointment. I firmly believe that you have to trust the nagging truth of your own senses and not the opinion of others. And as good as a story may be, the wines absolutely must come up to standard.
Instantly, upon tasting I regretted our small purchase. There is no doubt in my mind, that this is one of the finest wine producers in the world. Crafting wines from historic vineyards, as equal to any in the world, wines for meditation and reflection. Wines that, despite many of the terrible stories I hear from my South African friends, compel me to want to visit this great country.
These wines are the essence of beauty. But what form of beauty? The Renaissance took old, “classical” forms as contemporary inspiration. Gothic forms of buttressed brooding mass, stories carved in stone and stiff spires were cast aside. The new forms were shaped, curved, sophisticated, complex, blending art with craft and intricate design. Classicism became complicated, utterly transfixing and detailed. The Renaissance is how I interpreted the Sadie Family Wines.
The four wines tasted were at once utterly different from one another and yet with striking similarities. There is a spherical nature to the wines, round and yet precise and focused. Think of a target with an arrow through it’s centre. Texturally, I am reminded of swimming in the freshwater lakes of Fraser Island. It’s as if your body has been coated in the softest, most pure material that warms the skin and memory for hours afterwards. The fruit is pristine, perfectly ripe. One flavour folding into another with the sparkle and sheen and smoothness of a meringue mix. The total effect on the palate is what the Sistine Chapel is to the eye – divided into three epochs and yet despite this division there is no break or demarcation. The ceiling was laboriously painted using the complicated technique of buon fresco. After all, beautiful creations can only be achieved through skill, attention to detail and hard, hard work.
The tasted wines:
2018 Sadie Family Swartland Skerpioen – Full of trepidation. What if I don’t like it? The first tentative sniff was enough. Now followed by a full-lunged inhalation. Honeysuckle, melon, white peach and lots of other stuff. Beautifully soft texture, composed, mineral and perfectly weighted acidity. Intense and fine. Soft and firm. Globed and speared.
2017 Sadie Family Swartland Palladius – Hugely complex and worthy of meditation. I am always wondering what food or occasion to serve a bottle, but in this case, I want to be selfish. Alone, in a Chesterfield, surrounded by my books and with said bottle for company. Rich, full bodied and textural. Texture without hardness and weightless power. Honeysuckle, nougat, caramel, custard apple, stone fruits and spice. Very long and persistent. Lovely memories of this.
2018 Sadie Family Piekenierskloof Soldaat – Fascinating aromas, reminding me of Burgundy and Beaujolais. It is however Grenache, a Burgundian Grenache. Seamless palate, with a melange of red fruits and hints of darker fruits. The tannins are such an elegant window into the heart of this wine, framing the fruit, but in no way dominating the picture. Finesse doesn’t cover it. If you can find this, buy it.
2017 Sadie Family Swartland Columella – Syrah based wine like you’ve never tasted. Incredibly complex, with a playful, flirting composure. Coca, nougat, caramel, woodsmoke, fennel, blueberry and plum. There’s more, but I only had a small glass to taste! Roundness, softly gripping, and persistent. Weightless power. Organised, detailed, composed and sensual. Pleasing in every possible way.
2018 Sadie Family T’Voetpad – T’Voetpad is my South African white wine of the year for the second time in succession, but one thing is certain: it will be someone else’s turn next year, as no 2019 was produced. This incredible old vineyard, preserved from the bulldozers by its isolation and a certain amount of bloody mindedness, is a field blend of Semillon, Palomino, Chenin Blanc and Muscat, perfectly combined in a wine that should sell for five times the price. Pear, lime, beeswax, citrus and orange peel flavours segue into a salty, mineral-etched finish. 99 points – Tim Atkin MW, South Africa Special Report 2019
2018 Sadie Family Treinspoor – Treinspoor comes from a vineyard close to the railway line on the Darling side of the Swartland. It was especially crucial to get the picking date right in 2018, according to Paul Jordaan, but he and Eben Sadie nailed it. Showing the classic grip and square-jawed gruffness of Tinta Barocca, but with intense, savoury damson and tobacco flavours and ageworthy tannic structure. 96 points – Tim Atkin MW, South Africa Special Report 2019
2018 Sadie Family Pofadder – The 2018 Pofadder in Eben Sadie’s Cinsault from Swartland. This is complex and intellectual, yet utterly compelling, with beautifully detailed brambly red berry fruit, fennel, thyme and fynbos scents that blossom with aeration. The very detailed palate displays filigreed tannins, incredible focus and arresting purity through to the lightly spiced finish. This is one of the best from Sadie this vintage. 96 points – Neal Martin, Vinous