Visiting Eben Sadie in the Swartland

Eben, Showing the Way (©drw)

We visited Eben Sadie late last year to taste his new releases and to see first-hand the many changes at the winery. The most striking change is the new, almost completed winery that will allow everything to be done under one roof…and off the grid. We also walked around the vineyard near the winery where Eben talked about the international grape varieties he’s planting to explore their ability to make good wine while withstanding climate change. Among the 25 different varieties he’s planting are Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Aglianico, Greco and Xinomavro.

After the winery and vineyard tour, we made our way to the tasting room where winemaker Paul Jordaan led the tasting. Paul has worked with Eben since 2014 and assumed the winemaking role in 2020. A number of vessels are used for making and aging wine, but oak barriques are used for just one wine, the Swartland red blend Columella. Clay vessels, made in Hout Bay, South Africa, are used to make the Swartland white blend Palladius.  Concrete tanks and large foudres are predominantly used for the single vineyard wines.

The New Winery, Outside and Inside (©drw)

The winery sources grapes from a total of 54 hectares of selected vineyards in the Western Cape, 24 of which are owned by Sadie Family Wines; another 12 ha are being planted with new, heat and drought resistant varieties.

Paul Jordaan with Amphora & Clay Vessels (©drw)

The Wines

Sadie Family 2022 Mev Kirsten Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch  97  . This incredible wine comes from South Africa’s oldest Chenin Blanc vineyard, parts of it planted in 1920 and 1942! The wine has a medium yellow straw hue.  Tropical citrus and stone fruit on a creamy, full yet firm, densely flavored palate with a bright line of acidity and the tropical note kicking in again on a lengthy finish. Sourced from a 1.4 ha vineyard of decomposed granite over sandstone located at the foot of Bathmaskop in Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch. Whole bunch pressed, fermented and matured in old wooden casks and foudre for 12 months. pH 3.37, 13.5% alc. The vineyard includes mostly very old vines, but many are virused requiring interplanting with younger vines that are separately harvested and fermented and later blended.

Sadie Family 2022 Skurfberg Citrusdal Mountain  97 Pale straw. Fresh and incisive bouquet showing white fruit complemented by notes of citrus zest. Lanolin like mouth feel with finely delineated flavors, excellent depth and a precise, mineral-like finish that lingers in the mouth. This 100% Chenin Blanc is grown on decomposed sandstone of the 0.8 ha parcel of the van Lill family’s vineyard on Citrusdal Mountain at 640m with iron and granite soils. After harvesting, the grapes are cooled, whole bunch pressed, and fermented in old foudres where the wine is left for 12 months before being directly bottled. pH 3.42, 13.1% alc.

Sadie Family 2022 Rotsbank Swartland  96 Light yellow straw, revealing stone fruit, tropical citrus and chalky notes. Impressive concentration on a richly textured palate. The finish is firm and dry. Another Sadie wine that will only benefit from additional time in cellar. Sourced from 38-year-old vines planted on very shallow (30-50cm), decomposed granite soils of the Paardeberg. This is Eben’s first Chenin from the Swartland. The grapes are cooled, whole bunch pressed and fermented in old foudres where the wine is left on the fermentation lees for 12 months prior to bottling. pH 3.29, 13% alc.

2022 Palladius (©drw)

Sadie Family 2022 Palladius Swartland 95 Palladius is Eben’s regional white blend from the Swartland. Medium yellow straw. Superbly balanced and integrated, Palladius reveals a mélange of citrus and stone fruit. Full straw mouthfeel and beautiful now, but this is a wine that deserves to be cellared for at least a couple of years. A multi-varietal blend from 17 different parcels that includes 34% Chenin Blanc and 10 other varieties. The pressed juice is transferred to 725L concrete eggs and clay amphoras of diverse sizes. Each vineyard is separately fermented, up to 6-7 months. Matured in eggs and amphoras for 12 months and then racked off to foudres for another 12 months. pH 3.43, 13.75% alc.

Sadie Family 2022 Soldaat Piekenierskloof 95  Shimmering light garnet. This all-Grenache wine is explosively perfumed and offering alluring, fresh flavors of ripe strawberry, pomegranate and cherry with a touch of reduction. A compelling blend of power and delicacy. Soldaat (soldier in English) is named after the soldiers who used to patrol the mountain to deter livestock theft. It’s sourced from the van Zyl family’s 45year old vineyard of decomposed Table Mountain sandstone at Piekenlerskloof on Citrusdal Mountain at 708 meters, fermented with 60% whole bunches in 33 hl concrete tanks. After pressing, the wine returns to the concrete tanks where it spends 8 months on the lees and then racked to another concrete tank for another 4 months to settle.  clean. pH 3.52, 13.2% alc.

Sadie Family 2022 Treinspoor Swartland 94  Medium red hue. Vibrant aromas of red plum, raspberry, and fynbos herbs. Seamless and focused with round, dry tannins that argue for cellaring (It has the potential to develop over a long time in the cellar). All Tinta Barocca sourced from old bush vines planted in 1974 on sandstone, granite, and quartz soils adjacent to an old railway line, (hence the name Treinspoor), in Malmesbury in the Swartland. Fermented 50% whole cluster then basket pressed and transferred to old conical wooden casks for 11 months aging on the lees followed by racking to concrete to settle. pH 3.65, 13.25% alc.

2021 Columella (©drw)

Sadie Family 2021 Columella Swartland 98  This is Eben Sadie’s Swartland Red, a blend of varieties from different vineyards that expresses the region, says winemaker Paul Jordan. And every year the same amount of fruit is used from each block, so the wine not only reveals the region but, also, the vintage. The 2021 vintage is youthful and supremely fresh. The nose shows native herbs, flowers and spices and with red and black fruit, all repeated on the beautifully delineated palate. With this wine, Eben says “time is your friend.” It’s the only wine Eben makes that’s aged in barriques. A Syrah-led (45%) blend with Mourvedre, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsaut and Tinta Barocca. Individual berries are hand sorted then fermented in 33 hl open concrete fermenters. The wine is pressed using a traditional basket press. Matured for 12 months in 5% new tight grain French oak barriques and then racked to oval foudres for 12m additional aging. pH 3.42, 14% alc.

Thanks to Eben and Paul for showing us your wines and the exciting new cellar.  And thanks to my colleague, Mike Bampfield-Duggan of Wine Concepts, who accompanied me on the visit.

Mike, Eben, and Me (©drw)

Don Winkler, Co-Publisher & Editor

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