Today, Monday 29 July 2019, is the much anticipated new vintage release from Sadie Family Wines. These wines are highly regarded as the absolute cream of the crop on both a local and international level and the day for which wine lovers have been (im)patiently waiting has finally arrived!
Read more about the challenging vintage from the winemaker, Eben Sadie, himself, below:
This 2017 Columella is the first of “the drought years” to be bottled and this very 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.
This wine is the result of 12 months ageing in barrels (8% new) and thereafter an additional 12 months in old, big oval casks.
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 will require at least 2 hours of decantation if opened prior to 5 years of age in the bottle.
Palladius 2017 displays the magnitude of layers that is to be expected from a blend of 11 varietals across 17 vineyards, but unlike the previous two vintages there are more fresh fruit flavours and the stone fruit and peach skin aromas almost suggest a cooler vintage… this is in part the result of us picking slightly earlier than usual to try and save plant reserves for the vines to deal with the drought.
This wine normally has more tropical aromas, but this year there is none of that to be found. Some white cassis and green apple skin make up a very restrained version with salty, mineral and slight honey and lime undertones.
This Palladius spends its first year of ageing in clay amphorae and concrete eggs and then an additional year of ageing of the final blend in big oak casks.
OLD VINE SERIES
For no other reason than the higher altitude, the 2018 Soldaat actually held up quite well in comparison with many other vineyards. This year the fruit is extremely restrained and bright: almost like barely ripe pomegranates and cherry flavours. The bright red fruit is very much underplayed with an earthy and meaty mouth feel and it is clearly one of those vintages that, in time, will develop forest floor characters. Currently this wine is very restrained.
We picked the Cinsaut grapes in the Pofadder vineyard quite early again. Cinsaut has big berries and only minor dehydration leads to shrivelling and jam flavours. This is the most refined version we have bottled to date and seems to be the wine that will need the longest time to develop. The strawberry and unripe cherry flavours are dominating the aromas currently, but the texture and mouth feel is very elegant on the palate, with the usual tannin backbone which is typical of Cinsault. It is a very serious wine.
Over the past number of years the Treinspoor has in many ways become one of our most rewarding wines, for it has gone through an incredible process of refinement. The biggest attraction with Tinta Barroca is the fact that it can also produce super elegant aromas and purity, but with much more layering of tannins and texture on the palate. It is generally the most serious of the Old Vine reds that we bottle and the 2018 is not any different. However, this is in many ways the most balanced and harmonious wine we have bottled from this vineyard. The yield, unfortunately, was very small.
From the outset the limestone soils of this vineyard was the main attraction and the crazy thing is that, with the 2018 drought, this vineyard held up better than any of the other vineyards – even with the lowest seasonal rainfall of all of them (210mm total). However, the workings of the limestone soils and the underwater table brought us some of the most beautiful white grapes we picked in 2018. The usual salty mineral and limey, very linear wine was true to form with some citrus and honey blossom undertones. Being delicious, it is often consumed too young – try and keep one or two bottles for future drinking.
The Skurfberg up in the Clanwilliam mountains was definitely the area most affected by the drought. Not only did these vineyards receive less rain, but with half the normal rainfall and the extremely well-drained, decomposed Table Mountain sandstone soils the combination was just suicidal. We only managed to pick 30% of the grapes we collect in a normal year. The wine is unbelievably harmonious and poised and it actually does not show much of the drought other than a slightly lower alcohol level and a higher acidity than normal – we picked earlier to try and save as much of the vine reserves as we could. Drinking this wine is the closest we’ll probably get to walking on crystal.
The Kokerboom vineyard is even better drained than the Skurfberg vineyard, thus the same effect was in place… just in an accentuated way. The result was that we actually had to pick the grapes as soon as we could.
Compared to the Chenin Blanc variety in the Skurfberg, which does not seem to be so clearly marked by the picking date, the earlier picking of the Kokerboom Semillon Blanc and Semillon Gris brought about a marked difference: for the first time ever we picked up some herbaceous and green flavours that are not usually part of the character of this wine. We opted to pick that early in order to save the reserves in this vineyard, which was our most affected one.
Our suggestion is to at least age the 2018 Kokerboom for 5 years to just get things to settle down. We produced less than 30% of the usual production, so there is not much to go around and unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it. We tried our absolute best.
‘T Voetpad 2018
The ‘T Voetpad vineyard also followed the same trajectory as the Kokerboom as far as the production numbers are concerned, but here it was not on account of the soils being too drained, for the Voetpad vineyard is situated at the bottom of a mountain with some sub-soil moisture from a nearby river and underground draining. It was simply a case of very little fruit that set during flowering: a reality of a period of ongoing drought; and some vines actually died. In 2019 we will do a replanting in the vineyard and replace the vines that could not make it through.
The 2018 wine stayed true to its normal character and we managed to produce one of our star wines from this parcel again. Production numbers are very, very limited.
Mev. Kirsten 2018
Being the oldest of our Old Vine vineyards, this vineyard has had the benefit of time and much work; and also being situated in Stellenbosch with a naturally higher rainfall, so it came as no surprise that we harvested the most regular crop and fruit from Mev. Kirsten’s vineyard.
This year we again have the spectrum of fruit aromas from very fresh green apple running through to more tropical ones, with massive tannins and texture to the wine. This is a keeper for sure and we want to urge our valued clients to age this wine for a number of years prior to drinking. The yield was slightly down but the acidity and general condition of the fruit was just amazing.
REFLECTING ON THE VINTAGE
As I am writing these notes we are busy planting the post-harvest cover crops and it struck me that apart from the fact that you plant seeds in dry earth with faith that it will rain, it was exactly a year ago we referred to the incredibly tough years of drought and we could not see our way through living another harvest as tough as that of 2018… but 2019 was even more extreme. Even though some better rains were recorded in the winter of 2018, the sub-soil reservoirs are empty.
This year we are releasing the Columella & Palladius 2017 vintage and the Old Vine wines of 2018. With the 2019 vintage now being in the tanks and casks, the reality is that we have lost an entire year’s production over the past three years, with average production levels being down with 28% – 35%. In other words, apart from having to deal with an economic reality, there is a massive shortage of wine, especially as far as the Old Vine Series is concerned. Luckily for Columella & Palladius, we could add a vineyard to each one of the two over the past two years and this has been of great help.
“The sub-soil reservoirs are empty…”
As was the case in 2017, the 2018 harvest came in with much lower levels of ripeness and acidity and the more towards the north the vineyard lies, the harsher the effect of the drought. The Clanwilliam Mountains were hit the worst, followed by Piekenierskloof and the Piquetberg respectively. The vineyards in the Paardeberg and Kasteelberg in Riebeek did slightly better in 2018.
The biggest challenge besides the obvious loss in wine and the scales of economy, is not to lose sight of the fact that we still do have grapes to produce wines of consequence – even if we need to say goodbye to 70% of a specific vineyard and 20% of another, we still have the opportunity to bottle these extreme vintages.
Our initial views were that the longevity of these drought-affected vintages will come under fire, but the wines are showing well and are surprisingly stable. We do however feel that it is a good practice to drink the 2018 vintage wines prior to opening, for example, the 2014, 2015 or 2016 vintages.