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Sadie Family Swartland Columella 2019


Overall Red Wine of the Year It’s entirely appropriate that Columella should achieve a 100-point score in its 20th vintage, having completed two decades of trail-blazing brilliance. Based on Syrah with 55% Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Tinta Barocca, it’s a seamless Rhône-meets-the- Douro cuvée with violet, thyme and lavender aromas, subtle oak and peppery whole bunch spices, cassis, blackberry and cranberry flavours, thrilling acidity, minerality and haunting palate length. A truly great wine at the peak of its considerable powers. 100 points, Tim Atkin MW, South Africa Special Report 2021

Signature wine. First released in 2000, Columella is Sadie’s most famous wine. While it is regularly described as an ‘icon wine’ of Swartland, and indeed South Africa, Eben Sadie’s goal is simply to produce the best and most honest expression he can from Swartland as a whole. As such the blend includes all six of the seven official black grape varieties that grow within the region: the 2019 is a smidge less than 50% Syrah, with the remainder a blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, Tinta Barocca and Cinsault. The fruit is sourced from both Sadie Family vineyards and rented parcels, and this release was grown on seven different soil types (including granite, slate, gravel and sandstone) across nine separate vineyards in Paardeberg, Kasteelberg, Malmesbury and Piquetberg. The majority of the vineyards are low yielding, old-vine parcels, although some of the Estate’s younger material also plays its part. Many of the Syrah vines have been trained to their own pole (echelas style, as per the Northern Rhône).

In terms of the winemaking, most of the fruit is destemmed, although each year an increasing percentage of the fruit is whole-bunch. Sadie has a sorting team of 25 who discard between eight and 15% of the berries each year. The sorted grapes then go into a huge open fermenter for an average of three weeks on skins before being basket-pressed into mostly old, French oak barrels (less than 10% new). Following a year on lees the wine is racked into seasoned oval casks (foudres) for a further maturation on the fine lees. The wine is bottled without fining or filtration.

A quick note on the history and evolution of this wine. In its first decade, the wine was a predominantly Syrah blend with Mourvèdre. Over the years, though specifically since 2009, Sadie has introduced ever-increasing amounts of the other varieties into the blend. The fruit is now also picked earlier, and the winemaking has progressed considerably. Before 2009 the style was geared towards ripeness and extraction, maximising the depth of colour, flavour and tannin. Post-2009 the maceration has become super-delicate, with the grape cap being kept wet mainly via the use of handheld jugs, pouring juice gently over the top of the ferment. The amount of new oak has also decreased radically. It is no coincidence that these changes happened around the same time that Sadie was experimenting at Terroir al Lìmit in Priorat.

Columella is still a more powerful and complex wine than those in the Old Vine Series, with an unforced intensity and a corresponding increase in texture and ripeness. In our experience, decanting comes highly recommended.

This vintage has taken on many dimensions, interpretations and responses to the very terroir we farm for this wine. The 2019 is as harmonious as any wine can hope to be at this stage in its life. The wine exhibits finely trimmed perfumes and violet notes, bright fruit with spicy characteristics that immediately spill over into some of the most refined tannins we could capture at this point. Columella 2019 is a play of dual sides in that it has retained all the potential fruit one can hope for in a wine doing a 24-month cask ageing, but much of the primary fruit and textured grippy tannins are all at play at the same time. The 2019 can easily rival the 2015 in terms of breaking new ground. We have captured dimensions with the wine we have not seen to date.” Eben Sadie

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