Eben Sadie is the visionary founder of Sadie Family Wines, as well as the leader of the new generation of South African vignerons. He made his name by means of his quest to recover old bush vineyards in the ancient terroirs of the Swartland Mountains on the southwest coast of South Africa. A quest to turn the purity of these terroirs and their old vines into the purest of wines.
“I measure my quest with every vintage,” Eben says, “by how fresh and flavorsome my wines are, by their harmony, and by the pleasure they offer you. If you drink a glass of one of my wines and ask me for another, then I know I’ve done my job.”
Eben’s quest for pure terroir, pure fruit, and pure wine was inspired by De Re Rustica — On Agriculture — a seminal treatise on farming and viticulture by the Roman agronomist Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella. For Eben, purity means perfect grapes, which means small yields of fruit from honestly cultivated vineyards. It means vinifying every plot of every vineyard separately, respecting the character of every plot, and synthesizing their yields to achieve wines of great complexity.
Eben owns seven vineyards with a rich diversity of terroirs across the Swartland Mountains, where he cultivates grapes commonly identified with Mediterranean wine regions. The results of Eben’s quest are — astonishingly — wines you want to guzzle as much as they are wines you want to think about. For me, vintage after vintage, Eben’s quest yields treasure troves of wine. Wines I collect by twos in my cellar. One bottle to age, and one bottle to drink whenever.
Kokerboom 2018 (Semillon Blanc and Semillon Gris): A wine made with both the common white-berried and uncommon red-berried Semillon, a grape which has all but vanished from South Africa. Its bouquet of beeswax, yellow plum, and walnut leads to a palate of orange peel, lemongrass, and ginger. A white wine which doesn’t taste like any other you’ve ever had. Decanting recommended.
Pofadder 2018 (Cinsault): Fresh, bright berry fruit, with a highwire character and a pulsating texture. A truly elegant wine from an old bush vineyard of slate and decomposing shale. Decanting recommended.
Skerpioen 2018 (Chenin Blanc and Palomino): The Skerpioen (Scorpion) is from a chalky old vine parcel on the coast in one of the coolest parts of Swartland. The vineyard’s soil and climate impart this wine with crisp acidity, freshness, and minerality, along with beautifully expressive key lime, Meyer lemon, and gooseberry. Decanting recommended.
Skurfberg 2018 (Chenin Blanc): Old bush vine Chenin Blanc from three pristine vineyards, which were planted in the middle of the twentieth century. The first site offers aromatic fruit, the second earthy minerality, and the third freshness and acidity. Stone fruit aromas and flavors, with lines of minerality and acidity which bind the wine together. A great example of the magic Chenin can make!
Soldaat 2018 (Grenache): Grenache has a long history in South Africa, and the Piekenierskloof Pass — the vineyard Soldaat is made from — may be the best Grenache parcel in the country. Fresh, bright red fruit aromas, with rich berry flavors and an earthy minerality. As much as any wine Eben makes, this wine is an epitome of his ideals of purity.
Treinspoor 2018 (Tinta Barocca): A red wine grape of Portuguese ancestry, Tinta Barocca perfectly captures Swartland’s identity. This is a deep wine that grows deeper with aging. It begins with anise, earth, and graphite, turns into ripe, red fruits, and closes with a blackout punch! Age or decant.