“The best wines are the ones we drink with friends” – Anonymous
I am often asked which winery is the best in South Africa and I find this question very difficult to answer. There are so many aspects to all the different wineries in the country to consider – you’ve got the big and the little guys, everyone makes different wines, use different varietals, create different styles. Some have better marketing than others; some produce more and can spread their product to a greater community and get more exposure. Everyone aims at different markets, from the varsity students looking for a cheap hangover, to the housewife who cooks with wine (sometimes some even gets added to the food), to the serious wine collector.
With all these factors and more, who is anyone to say which winery is the best in South Africa without imparting bias or picking favourites?
Tim James, a widely respected wine writer in South Africa, has been conducting polls since 2001 and from these polls drawing up lists of the top twenty wineries in South Africa. As the wine industry evolves and new wineries and come into play, these lists constantly change. Tim has just released the latest list. For this year’s poll he used a panel of judges which comprised of seven leading sommeliers, six retailers, eleven local and foreign critics and journalists. According to the poll, the best winery currently in South Africa is Sadie Family Wines. At Londolozi, the Sadie Family Columella 2010 is on the wine list.
The Sadie Family is based in the Swartland region of the Cape wine lands. Eben Sadie, South Africa’s first certified celebrity winemaker, has been described by supporters as “one of the greatest and most original wine makers in the Southern Hemisphere.”
Before Eben Sadie became a winemaker he travelled and worked in several of the world’s wine regions, including Austria, Germany, Italy, Burgundy and Oregan. When he came back to South Africa he worked under Charles Back at Spice Route in 1998. He eventually became the chief winemaker and Charles Back described him as “national asset for the South African wine industry.”
The Sadie Family was founded in 1999. The Sadie Family produces two flagship wines, Columella (a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache) and Paladius (a blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blance, Viognier, Chardonnay, Roussanne, Semillon and Palomino). The maiden vintage of Columella started on an exceptionally small scale with approximately 5000 bottles. The first two vintages were produced at Spice Route’s facilities until Eben Sadie established Sadie Family Wines with R9000 (back then US $1,650) and 14 barrels.
“The most excellent wine is one which has given pleasure by its own natural qualities,” commented Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella; “nothing must be mixed with it which might obscure its normal taste.” This timelessly valid judgement appeared over two millennia ago, in Columella’s teatrise on farming De re Rustica (On Country Matters), the most comprehensive account of Roman viticulture. It is a fitting definition of a wine named to honour Columella, a wine carefully matured to express its origins in the soils of South Africa’s Swartland region.
The entire label on the Sadie Family Columella bottle is written in Latin, why an ancient Roman in modern Swartland? Columella was one of the most important writers on viticulture and vinification in early Rome. Through his work and direction, many grapes made their way up the Rhône – on whose steep Northerly banks Syrah is now produced in its purest form. As Syrah forms the basis of the Columella and Eben Sadie was fascinated by Columella and admired his work and understanding of viticulture, the decision to use Latin on the label followed on from the decision on the name.
Eben Sadie would rather have the drinker concentrate on the contents of the bottle and spare them the labour of reading. He reckons that if one thinks the text will enhance the taste of the wine then you can have it translated. Using Google translate the label roughly says “Delivered in a castle full of hope. Created in a fair year. Where viticulture meets the Sadie Family in a hopeful castle – An African star”.
This is a very spicy wine with immense fresh red fruit flavours with some very delicate violet notes. A great all round freshness and lingering aftertaste.
The Sadie Family Columella will pair wonderfully with fillet and green peppercorn sauce.
Do you agree with Tim James that Sadie Family Wines is the best? What do you think is the best winery in South Africa? Have you tried the Columella and what are your thoughts on it?
Written by: Kim Drake
Images courtesy of Sadie Family Wines