2017 Sadie Family Swartland Columella
First released in 2000, Columella is Sadie's most famous wine. While it is regularly described as an 'icon wine' of Swartland, and indeed South Africa, Eben Sadie's goal is simply to produce the best and most honest expression he can from Swartland as a whole. As such the blend includes all six of the seven official black grape varieties that grow within the region, sourced from a range of the soil types. The 2017 is 60% Syrah, with the remainder coming from Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. The fruit is sourced from both Sadie Family vineyards and rented parcels. This release was grown on seven different soil types--inc. granite, slate, gravel and sandstone--across nine separate vineyards in Paardeberg, Kasteelberg, Malmesbury and Piquetberg. The majority of the vineyards are low-yielding, old-vine parcels, though some of the Estate's younger material also plays its part. Many of the Syrah vines have been trained to their own pole, echelas style, as per the Northern Rhone. In terms of the winemaking, most of the fruit is destemmed, although each year an increasing percentage of the fruit is whole bunch. Sadie has a sorting team of 25 who discard between 8-15% of the berries each year. The sorted grapes then go into a huge open, concrete fermenter (with an average three weeks on skins) before being basket pressed into mostly old, French oak barrels, with only 8% new. Following a year on lees the wine is racked into oval casks (foudres) for a further maturation on the fine lees.
A tightly wound but well-crafted example, this needs a little bit of air at the moment, but will be better after a few years of cellaring. Elegant, featuring notes of damson plum, black tea and lavender, with juicy acidity and firm, integrated tannins providing support. Shows balance, intensity and depth.
The 2016 Columella was matured for 12 months in 10% new oak and then 12 months in old foudres. There is something warm and comforting about the nose: blueberry, crushed violet, a touch of burning embers, almost a damp clay scent. The palate is medium-bodied with fine-grained tannin, the Syrah not as pronounced as previous vintages (a policy pursued by Eben as he increased Grenache), and delivering gentle grip toward the slightly peppered finish and long, black-pepper-tinged aftertaste. Very impressive.
Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Grenache, Tinta Barocca Fermented in open concrete vats; no additions are made. Basket pressed, then transferred to barrel. Aged 12 months in 8% new oak and then 12 months in old foudres. No fining or filtration.
Tim Atkin, MW