Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2006
“100 points … perfect wine!” That’s what I might say about Eben Sadie’s Palladius were I the caricature of wine criticism that is James Suckling. But Sadie is decidedly anything but patina – his wines are made with minimal interference, almost to the level of a ‘natual wine’ producer. I found this revelation somewhat shocking given what I tasted a couple weekends ago: Sadie’s wines are clean, modern and immediately delicious. What makes them truly excel is the level of complexity, balance and elegance they achieve given the winemaking techniques.
Terroir as Wine Making Philosophy
South Africa is a warm climate, which for Mr. Sadie means it is better suited to blending than to single varietal wines. He also believes that South Africa’s soils are mostly too geologically old to produce good wine, and so he sought out the vineyards with the youngest geology in order to make his wine.
Sadie is also an extreme minimalist. He focuses on doing as little to his grapes as possible. He farms biodynamically, harvests by hand, ferments in neutral old wood or cement, does not add enzymes or commercial yeasts and even presses his grapes with a hand operated basket press. This is remarkably similar to the natural wine philosophy I discussed in my previous post. The most Sadie does beyond this is to control the fermentation temperatures with electricity. This is understandable given the climate in which he works – as I contended at the Natural Wine tasting, only some climates are conducive to completely neutral treatment of a wine. That said, Eben Sadie is making wines of such a level of quality that most ‘natural wine’ makers can right now only dream of making.
Burgundian Sophistication and South African Terroir
Sadie’s Palladius is a masterpiece of white wine making. A blend of several grapes, the predominant mix is one of Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Grenache Blanc. That a marriage of loire and rhone white varieties could be so successful is more a testament to Sadie’s masterful touch than to South Africa in particular.
This is a wine that drinks with the level of elegance and sophistication of Grand Cru white Burgundy, but with a flavour profile that is decidedly singular. The oak qualities in this wine are perfectly integrated with the strange marriage of orchard and citrus fruits that seem to coincide with this unique blending of grapes. This is the sort of wine with a subtlety that makes you love it while drinking but not realize its greatness until you juxtapose it with something you previously thought was great. That such great wines can seem faulty in the presence of Sadie’s creation is a testament to how amazing the wine actually is.
So, while I am certainly no James Suckling, I can say that Eben Sadie’s Palladius is amongst the best white wines I have ever tasted. It is a lucky individual whose palate experiences its pure and almost perfect expression of a blend that could probably be made nowhere else.
$90 at Everything Wine (purchased for $45 on sale)