Eben Sadie is often proclaimed as South Africa’s most original and talented winemaker. 2015 is cited as one of South Africa’s greatest vintages ever. And the vineyards that Eben sources fruit from for his Ouwingerdreeks [Old Vine Series] are among South Africa’s very oldest. Taken together, these factors should result in some of the most special wines he has ever produced, and that’s saying a lot. While visiting South Africa earlier this month, I tasted five of these old vine wines: Skerpioen, ‘T Voetpad, Kokerboom, Pofadder, and Soldaat. Reviews are given below. For reviews of older vintages of Sadie Family Wines see our Special Report # 55 Wines of South Africa: White Blends and Old Vines and Report # 30 The Wines of South Africa. Also, see our recent article on this blog, De Martino and Sadie Family: Old Vine Cinsault from Two Outstanding Winemakers in Chile and South Africa.
Thanks to the investigative powers of famed viticulturist Rosa Kruger [see box at end of this article], Eben has access to uniquely sited, dry farmed, old bush vines that produce infinitesimal yields. He treats them with great care, practicing non-interventionist, gravity-flow winemaking. He uses wooden and concrete open top fermenters and ages the wines in old foudres, concrete eggs, and amphorae. The result is pure wines that show their terroir as well as the exceptional growing conditions of the 2015 vintage.
Broadbent Selections imports these hard-to-find wines to the US.
Sadie Family Wine 2015 Skerpioen Swartland 93 Revealing an intricate herbal and saline bouquet, this densely flavored, mineral infused Chenin led blend is a joy to drink. Touches of honeycomb, stone fruit and Marcona almond complement the herbal scents, offering a wine that’s as stimulating as it is pleasing. From 50+ year old dry-farmed, bush vines planted in a 2.4 hectare sandy vineyard (see photo) located just 1 km from the sea. The Palomino and Chenin Blanc grapes are co-fermented in old casks with aging half in concrete egg and half in the casks.
Sadie Family 2015 ‘T Voetpad Swartland 95 Showing an expressive beeswax, dried stone fruit and herbal nose, this field blend of very old Swartland vines is superbly balanced and complex on an elegant palate, revealing both fruity and savory notes. It finishes on an incredibly rich and refined note. A field blend of interplanted varieties 85-115 years of age located in an isolated, very hot part of the Swartland. Chenin Blanc, Semillon, and Palomino with a touch of Muscat. Simply outstanding, and unique.
Sadie Family 2015 Kokerboom Olifantsrivier 94 Attractive herbal and underbrush aromas are complemented by beeswax and citrus notes on a complex, beautifully delineated palate with outstanding acidity and minerals. The wine is austere in its youth and will benefit greatly from bottle aging. Another memorable, elegant old vine wine from Sadie. Made from both Semillon Blanc and Gris planted in the 1930s.
Sadie Family Wine 2015 Pofadder Swartland 94 The light red 2015 Pofadder retains the pomegranate and red berry fruit we found in the 2014 with a dash of white pepper spice. It shows remarkable purity, bright acidity, and is beautifully elegant. From old vine Cinsault planted in 1966 on slate soils. Whole cluster fermented in open top fermenters and basket pressed after a month on the skins.
Sadie Family 2015 Soldaat Piekenierskloof 95 Soft yet elegant, this Grenache-based wine offers red cherry and berry fruit with light notes of underbrush and dried herbs. It shows incredible purity with good depth, a firm acid backbone, and a long finish. Made from ungrafted, dry-farmed bush vines planted at 708 meters altitude in decomposed granitic soils. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Rosa Kruger, Viticulturist and Hunter of Old Vines. South Africa’s top viticulturist has no formal training as such. Formerly a journalist with a law degree, she opted for the rural life in Elgin where she started caring for vines with the advice of Stellenbosch professors. She went on to manage vineyards at Uva Mira in Stellenbosch and Cape Point in Noordhoek. Then she moved to Riebeek Kasteel in the Swartland where she and Eben Sadie searched out old vineyards, located mostly in remote areas surrounded by fynbos. Those special, old vineyards played an important role in elevating Eben to his current lofty position as South Africa’s most renowned winemaker. She then worked with Johann Rupert’s L’Ormarins winery, which is undertaking extensive new plantings in the Swartland. More importantly for South Africa, with Rupert’s support she has taken the lead in identifying and documenting the Western Cape’s old vineyard parcels with an eye to preserving them and helping the growers obtain the premium prices that grapes from these parcels merit. Today, Rosa has her own vineyard management company, MyVine, and develops and manages vineyards for her clients.