Sadie Family Wines held a tasting of its latest vintages today – the official release date is next Tuesday, 11 August, though everything is sold from the farm already. Some retailers should have stock of some of them still. It is extremely doubtful whether the Cape – perhaps the world – can offer a better price:value ratio than some of the Old Vineyard Series, at under R200 per bottle for some of the best white wines you’ll be lucky enough to find (admittedly not easy in all markets, including the domestic one. But do try if you like authentic, lovely wines).
Here are brief notes (subsequently made a bit more readable, not to mention occasionally flowery) that I took at the quick tasting that was possible this morning – it’s not my favourite way of trying to arrive at even a basic assessment or understanding of wines, but I offer them for what they’re worth. At least one had track record to supplement impressions. The order here is the order they were tasted in, on Eben’s advice.
Soldaat 2014: Refined, almost delicate, subtly perfumed. Seems to me a tauter yet more expressive expression of Grenache than before, with a stoney core to the fruit. Perhaps it’s the latter element that gives a sense of place – in fact, Rosa Kruger says she thinks it really expresses Piekenierskloof like no other wine. Stoney. Sense of place. Structure
Pofadder 2014: Again a lovely delicacy, with bright red fruit – though less bright (and more subtle?) than some of the earlier-picked Swartland cinsauts. This also juicier and fuller. This wine seems to gain depth with each vintage. Succulent balance – fresh acidity and firm grape-derived tannins. I’m sure this wine will last for ages – again, probably longer than some of the less-ripe versions, though I am a great admirer of that style too (but I think there’s more depth here than is mostly found in current Cape cinsauts).
Treinspoor 2014: Eben has always been a champion of this tinta barocca wine (the red wine of the vintage” he says of this one), and I have never been its biggest fan, finding the dry tannin too extreme for the fruit. The 2014, with its wild raspberry notes, does seem more balanced between fruit, acid and tannins, and more elegant and profound but I still find the structure too impressive for the fruit. Chances are though, that in 20 years I shall be dead and the wine will be triumphantly proving me wrong.
Columella 2013: The lowest alcohol Columella yet (it still declares 14% alcohol on the label, but could have shown 13.5%) – which pleases Eben because, as he says, there is no compromise with the texture or concentration or depth. A lower component of the Swartland’s dark-fruited syrah, and dollops of carignan and cinsaut (as well as the customary mourvèdre) make the overall fruit redder and fresher. The ripeness is subtly and lightly expressed, promising complexity which is already hinted at. Very fine tannins. Still tight and only beginning to approach its potential, but the long lingering flavours (which start almost at the entry of the wine onto the palate and don’t waver or dip on their long trajectory) show the intensity that’s lurking. Maybe the best Columella yet – but I have the feeling I say that every year. But anyway, undoubtedly one of the very best Cape reds.
And so to the white wines. Alcohols are generally a bit lower this (2014) vintage, and it’s perhaps this that gave what seemed to me a fresher acidity in the balances. These are superb wines.
Skerpioen 2014. From that extraordinary vineyard of chenin and Palomino up the West Coast – whose chalk gives a unique character to the wine, unlike other chenins, especially in terms of structure. Piercing acids (2013 was softer, this returns to real tautness), a fresh salinity, a noticeable tannic touch, uncompromising dry finish. (The wine was very reductive at first in the glass, but largely shook it off with a bit of vigorous persuasion and time.) For me one of the best and most exciting wines of the vintage, though certainly not the easiest.
Skurfberg 2014: Chenin from three Olifantsrivier vineyards. I was more aware than previously of a delicate perfume (Eben assures me that a few bunches of muscat didn’t get in!), and a fresh citrus tang on the palate. Softer and more harmonious in presenting itself than the other whites, though its ripe roundness is vibrant and sufficiently founded on acidity.
‘T Voetpad 2015: As usual, the wine from the five varieties in this bakingly hot, very old northern Swartland vineyard, is richer than its mates in the Ouwingeredreeks. This, while still hinting at voluptuousness, is a particularly refined, fresh vintage, beautifully structured with tannin playing a not insignificant role in the complex harmony. Again, the lower alcohol is important.
Kokerboom 2014: Apparently, the alcohol here is 13.4, while it has often reached 14.5 in the past. It’s very supple still, and the acidty is just fine. But I found this the most difficult of the range to appreciate and understand, very tight, rather inexpressive and inaccessible; balanced rather than harmonious. Even austere. Going by track record, though, I’m confident that I was right to buy some of this and that it will emerge in quiet glory – but I won’t open a bottle for at least five years.
Mrs Kirsten 2014: When is this not amongst my favourite wines in the series? It was in its more oxidative period, it still is, now that the oxidative element is reduced to a whisper. The apotheosis of Stellenbosch chenin. Also whispering amongst the quiet intensity of flavour is some beautifully ripe sweet fruit, intimating genuine but understated intensity. Something magic, as always, about this lovely wine.
Palladius 2013: As a climax to the tasting, this worked just fine. The most confidently rich and deep of the whites, expressing well the generosity of Swartland warmth, and the refinement that comes from low-yielding vines in poor soil, handled with sensitive, non-interventionist restraint in the cellar, by someone who’s made great advances, clearly, in understanding just when to do things. And when not. A very complete, fresh, intense and fascinating wine.