A gentle Swartlander

If something of a winemaker’s own character is reflected in his or her wines (as well as terroir, of course), then David Sadie is a gentle yet uncompromising soul.

 

David and Nadia Sadie at the launch of their latest vintages
David and Nadia Sadie at the launch of their latest vintages

It would, perhaps be wrong to say Sadie ‘burst upon the scene’, a feat limited by his and wife, Nadia’s very limited production; from just 713 bottles of his acclaimed white blend, Aristargos, to 7000 bottles in 2013, the third vintage; thankfully, production has ‘soared’ to 18000 bottles this year!

Nevertheless for those, myself included, who have bought and enjoyed his wines, there is recognition of another star in the making. Such recognition has already spread beyond South Africa’s boundaries, with UK writer, Tim Atkin MW reckoning in his latest South African report that Sadie is someone ‘to look out for’. He’s already rated him a 3rd Growth in his Cape Classification, alongside such recognized luminaries as Hamilton Russell, Thelema and Waterford. So one could say Sadie is already up among the best.

He’s a Swartland boy by birth and a member of the Swartland Independents by inclination, preferring to interfere as little as possible with the best fruit possible.

While this philosophy is applicable to all members of this group, it doesn’t mean their wines are not evolving in style. I would indeed warn that for those who’ve enjoyed Sadie’s wines since 2010, they are evolving every vintage. This was very clear at a tasting of the new vintages – 2013 for Chenin Blanc, Aristargos and Grenache (noir); 2012 for the red blend, Elpidios. The general trend is for more restraint and freshness, which means they need longer to come out of their shell, especially the blends.

Dare I say it, but we’re getting used to chenin having come out of its shell of mediocrity and increasingly showing how it can dazzle – even if it’s sometimes in a quiet way rather than razzle-dazzle.

Bearing in mind my opening sentence, it should be no surprise to hear Sadie’s chenin is a bright star but not one on steroids. As a member of the Swartland Independents, he eschews any additives apart from a little sulphur, and the barrels in which the wine was fermented and aged were older and larger (300 litres). In the end only two of the more than a dozen original barrels made the cut (the uncompromising part of Sadie’s nature). It has the pure yet intense aromatics underpinned by a subtle earthiness I associate with natural ferment. There’s the vitality occasioned by both freshness and a supple, bouncy feel, but this is all carried out in slow motion rather than with great vigour. As the fruit is drawn from the Swartland – Kasteelberg, Paardeberg as well as hills on the western side of Malmesbury – and follows the Independents’ directive for vinification, it’s not surprising there are others in the genre, though each with its own individuality.

Can it still be that chenin is ‘this wonderful, under-rated variety’, as Tim Atkin describes it? I realize quantities remain limited (a maximum of 50 x 12 of Sadie’s 2013) but winelovers are now willing to pay very good money for chenin; Sadie’s is around R240 retail and there are now plenty upwards of R100.

There was some discussion at the launch about single vineyard chenin and would Sadie consider producing one. The reason he wouldn’t isn’t because there’s no site worthy of solo bottling, but rather that a single site might become uneconomic to farm; by taking fruit from several farms and vineyards, the likelihood of that happening to all is diminished.

DavidAristagoslabelChenin is also the majority partner (though 10% less than previous vintage) in Aristargos with viognier, clairette blanche (another variety that is being beneficially re-discovered) and newcomer to the blend, roussanne. Tighter, fresher with subtle pithy finish, this wine definitely needs time to fill out. Sadie believes clairette is a restraining influence and picks the viognier early to avoid overly overt fruit.

If it’s fruit you’re after then the Grenache is your wine – but be prepared to fork out R270 odd. Some whole bunches, the balance de-stemmed but not crushed generates juicy, pure wild strawberry and fynbos flavours with a really dry finish. It clocks an unusually low, for Grenache, 12.5% alc; ‘About the minimum one could get anything out of this variety,’ surmised Tim James, who also returned to his debate on how high this could score, despite preferring to drink it as compared with something much bigger and well made but less to his liking. Whatever your view – and who can deny Chateau Rayas is a five star wine? – this one is more for warm weather enjoyment than to accompany a hearty winter dish.

But to my favourite of the tasting; Elpidios 2012, a blend of mainly shiraz (52%) but for me and some others, driven by its lesser (in quantity) partners; grenache, carignan and cinsaut, which provide lighter, brighter spice and wild scrub savouriness. This makes it all the more interesting, as so many blends with shiraz taste of little else.

The good news that production has significantly increased in 2014 is joined by David’s new venture at the farm Paardebosch, on the same Perdeberg slopes as Adi Badenhorst and next to Pieter Euvrard’s Orangerie. The old cellar there is being revitalized; David will make his own wines there as well as two single vineyard wines under the Paardebosch label.
More excitement, if of a gentle nature, in store from this young gun team.

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