2018 Sadie Family Swartland Columella
The Sadie Family team work with roughly 30-hectares of vines, one-third of which are estate, with the other vines farmed entirely under their control. This is a considerable undertaking when you consider, at their furthest point, the vineyards lie some 250 miles apart and are spread across 53 separate parcels. Then consider that everything is dry grown and organically farmed and that each parcel, having different geologies, aspects and often grape varieties, will require different management. These vines lie mostly on the high altitude slopes of Swartland’s Atlantic-influenced mountains, one hour north of Cape Town on the Western Cape.
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 six of the seven official black grape varieties that grow within the region, sourced from a range of soil types. The 2018 is a smidge less than 50% Syrah, with the remainder coming from Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, Tinta Barocca and Cinsault.
The fruit is sourced from both Sadie Family vineyards and rented parcels. This release was grown on seven different soil types (including 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 Rhône. 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 eight and 15% of the berries each year. The sorted grapes then go into a huge open fermenter (with an average of three weeks on skins) before being basket-pressed into mostly old, French oak barrels, (less than 10% new). Following a year on lees the wine is racked into seasoned oval casks (foudres) for a further maturation on the fine lees. The wine is bottled without fining or filtration.
Deep ruby at the core with a pale ruby edge, the 2018 Columella explodes from the glass with high-toned, dark red fruit aromas of black raspberry, dusty plum and dark cherry skin in the glass, with an alluring essence of dust-blown red flowers and a kiss of baking spices layered through the nose. Medium-bodied and bursting with flavor, the 13.5% alcohol wine shows impeccable balance, succulent acidity and lifting tannins, making way for a delightful mineral tension sensation across the mid-palate. The wine somersaults in the mouth, revealing new layers of black olive and dusty black cherry skin before concluding with a long, evolving finish marked by a dusty, red-berried essence that begs me back for more. This is a wine where, once you have a sip, you can’t help being seduced by its intoxicating aromas that will leave your head spinning. Another stunningly brilliant vintage of Columella. Bravo!
Anthony Mueller - Wine Advocate (Feb 2021)
The 2018 Columella was 50% destemmed, spent six weeks on the skins and was matured with 10% new oak. It has a very precise and extremely focused bouquet of blackberry and bilberry fruit, crushed stone and wilted rose petals, conveying wonderful energy and elegance. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannins, a fine bead of acidity, plenty of red fruit tinged with dried orange peel, cedar and hints of espresso, and a very persistent, structured finish that leaves black pepper on the aftertaste.
Neal Martin - Vinous
The percentage of Syrah decreases every year - it was once 80% and is now closer to 45% - allowing Eben Sadie to play with other Mediterranean grapes, namely Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Tinta Barocca. Remarkably well balanced and refined given the heat and dryness of the vintage, this is a scented, floral, nuanced red with red cherry and mulberry fruit, fine tannins and a lift of stony minerality. One of the best ever Columellas.
Tim Atkin MW - South Africa Special Report 2020