An appalling act of vandalism took place last week at Terroir al Limit, the winery in Priorat in Spain owned by Swartland winemaker Eben Sadie, together with Dominik Huber from Germany and the local Jaume Sabaté.
Someone broke into the cellar at night, in the tiny village of Torroja. They opened some valves on tanks to let the wine flow out, and contaminated a number of casks of wine with bleach. Large volumes were thus destroyed of what has in the last few years come to be seen as one of Spain’s finest ranges of wines.
The financial value of the wine lost must be enormous – not huge volumes, but the precious juice from two vintages of some very old, low-yielding vines, meticulously and even lovingly tended, the wines made with an uncompromising commitment to quality. Fortunately it was not quite all destroyed.
The police are investigating, and the appellation authorites and the governmental authorities of the area are also involved.
Eben was in South Africa last week, for a brief touch-down between two bouts of foreign travel – he was in Priorat not long ago and left for the Far East at the weekend. He told me about this horrible act the day after it happened (the press release was issued only last night) and he was, of course, immensely distressed – in constant contact with Dominik Huber who of course was bearing the load back at the winery. And he was totally at a loss as to what lay behind it. Anyone who knows Eben (and his partners) will know how well he gets on with his neighbours everywhere, and how respectfully and well he treats colleagues and workers. Could this be an act of xenophobia?
To those who love wine and what it stands for in human culture, this must seem, as the press release says,”in some way an assault on mankind”. Sheer vandalism? Or a more particular hatred, more specifically directed?
Eben and his partners will be able to count on much-needed support from a large number of friends and colleagues. They are, of course, determined that they will overcome what counts as a major setback. The winery was formed in 2004 (bringing together Sadie’s and Huber’s own wines, which had previously been separately made in this cellar), and was getting into its stride, with its wines being widely acclaimed.