Should your soul require nourishment, there can be little more inspiring than a drive to the Swartland on a crystal clear, windless winter’s day (my photo should give some idea just how inspirational an experience this can be ).
The expansive views, gentle silhouette of the distant mountains contrasted by the vivid green of the rolling wheatlands, interrupted here and there by a few farm buildings; all are breathtaking but at the same time they have a calming sense of harmony. All has an aura of authenticity.
Of course, neither the wheat fields nor vineyards are authentic in terms of history; the original landscape then boasted a great deal more renosterveld. But let’s allow for a little historical licence, as authenticity in wine is something that deserves more consideration than it’s currently being given.
The reason for my visit to the Swartland was the launch of David and Nadia Sadie’s new vintages as well as an introduction to their cellar’s new home on Paardebosch. The farm, just down the berg from Adi Badenhorst, was purchased by lawyer, Des Kruger and South African wine exporter, Wiggo Anderson in 2011.
Sadie is also responsible for making the Paardebosch wines. Paardebosch is an authentic ‘plaas’ with dogs, horses (of course), white-washed walls and is reached via an obligatory bumpy dirt track. The bucolic setting and Sadie’s perpetual laid-back manner when presenting the wines perfectly complemented the venue.
Welcoming us on arrival was a delightful , seriously-priced Paardebosch Rosé (R120 ex cellar), a blend of syrah, carignan, grenache, pinotage and cinsaut, naturally fermented in old oak and with a moderate alcohol and freshness that felt so right with the sparkling sunny day. It’s a delight to drink solo or with any number of suitable dishes.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, though some of my colleagues were a tad dismissive, either because it’s rosé or because it lacks in profundity, as they put it. A view they and others have taken on the growing number of varietal cinsauts on the market. ‘Nice, but not profound.’ ‘No one in the world has made a profound cinsaut.’ And so on.
It was the same when David Sadie’s 2014 Grenache (R280) was poured, but who would not be charmed by its glinting ruby clarity, expressive warm raspberry and spice fragrance, fullsome ripe flavours, harmonious freshness and it’s so satisfyingly dry. I much prefer it to the 2013, which I did find a little light. But again, like the Paardebosch Rosé, its real appeal lies in its charming authenticity. It’s no Chateau Rayas, but it has no pretentions to that level.
I don’t disagree with their assessment but think we need to realise that what these new-wave cinsauts and grenaches like David Sadie’s are creating is at different level of quality. They are neither at the simple, commercial and sometimes contrived lower end of the scale, nor at the ambitious – sometime over-ambitious – top end, often lacking in profundity themselves; if they lack great depth, they’re not facile or dishonest. Call them what you will: genuine, legitimate or authentic, they are wines of purity and naturalness, the best with moderate alcohols, freshness and with no unnecessary residual sugar cover up. For those who score, this is an incredibly difficult task; one that deserves a written note rather than a number.
There’s no doubt the Sadie’s flagship white Aristagos (R260), a chenin, roussanne, clairette, viognier and semillon blend from 12 different blocks, and flagship red, Elpidios (R305), a syrah, carignan, grenache, cinsaut and pinotage ensemble from seven different blocks have the potential to mature with more complexity than the varietal grenache – as such a wide selection of sites and David’s increasing understanding of them and their vinification – should suggest, but that’s no reason not to appreciate the positive charms and quality of his grenache, or others equally legitimate cinsauts.
Let’s enjoy them for what they are, not for what they are not.