Eben Sadie is the most influential winemaker of his generation in South Africa. Having worked in wineries right around the world in the 1990s (Burgundy, Oregon, Italy, Austria and Germany) he returned to South Africa and started his own label, Sadie Family Wines, in 1999. Its first wine, the Syrah-based Columella 2000, was awarded 5 stars in the Platter Guide. Palladius, its idiosyncratic flagship white, received 5 stars in its third (2004) vintage. Following a period of supporting winemaking projects outside of South Africa he now focuses only on the wines in makes from vineyards in the Swaartland, Olifants River and Stellenbosch.
His hard work, attention to detail, diligence on organic farming methods and incredible knowledge of the Western Cape's vinous historical treasures have inspired those that work with him, around him and sell his wines globally. His influence today is prophetic, his wines are profound and extremely sought after. His flagship wines are Columella and Palladius, blends made from all the parcels and varieties he works with, while his Old Vine Series are a brilliant collection of single vineyard wines with evocative names such as Pofadder (Puffadder), Skerpioen (Scorpion), Soldaat (Soldier), T'Voetpad (Footpath), Treinspoor (Traintrack), Skurfberg (rugged mountains) and Kokerboom (Aloe tree).
This 2017 vintage has incredible tension and density and is very much “locked in”. The firmness of the wine suggests that it is a great keeper. It does exhibit amazing herbal, spicy and perfumed aromas and there is more than enough fruit - but it is a highly-strung wine that needs time. The tannins are fine, powdery and almost silky with a slightly lower acidity and more expanded palate than the 2014 and 2016. The wine is super-tight and requires at least 2 hours decantating if opened prior to 5 years of age in the bottle.
Vinification: Hand sorting of individual berries of the entire production in small “strawberry” cases. Fermentation takes place spontaneously in 3300 litre open concrete fermenters for about three weeks at a temperature of 24 °C and is then followed by a post-fermentation maceration of another three weeks. No additions are made to the fermenting wine. Pressing takes place in a traditional basket press and the wine is transferred to the barrel (5% new) for malolactic fermentation.
Ageing: The wine spends 12 months on the lees in tight-grain French oak barrels, just 5% of them new. The wine is then racked into big oval casks (foudres) for an additional year of maturation on the fine lees. After a total of two years the wine is bottled without fining or filtration.
Notes: This 2017 Columella is the first of “the drought years” to be bottled and this wine stands as evidence of the great stability to be achieved in a region with multiple varieties and vineyards planted in diverse sites. It shows that the greatest and most stable quality is to be achieved by a selection of vineyards rather than just one. The expression of a singular site has its place, but there is simply no better strategy than the combination of a bigger variety of terroirs to build up the most stable representation of our region.