South Africa has a rough reputation with red wines. The rubbery Pinotages of the past have proved a significant negative force for the country’s reputation. As such, very few South African wines actually make it to Canadian or American shores. Those that do tend to be amongst the upper echelon, but even so there are few that provide value.
Pinnacle of the Cape
I’ve had some good luck with a few producers, particularly Reyneke. Sadie Family is in a different league entirely. These are not only in my opinion the best wines of South Africa, but they are also amongst the best in the world.
Eben Sadie is an odd South African in that he challenges some of the preconceptions about wine in the Cape. He spent quite a few years in Europe while young, learning from wineries in Germany, Italy, Burgundy and Austria. Since then he has developed some strong beliefs: 1) that old soils in SA produce poor wines, and so he seeks out younger soils and 2) that the warm coastal climate of the cape is suited for blends, not single varieties. These are hand harvested, biodynamically grown grapes.
This Columella Syrah and Mourvedre blend could compete with the best of the Northern Rhone for completeness. Its cool red and blue fruits, subtle smoke, game and minerals were all ideally typical for the grape, and the wine’s integration of tannin, alcohol and acid was essentially perfect. Highly aromatic, a developed mid-palate, extended finish and beautiful texture make this amongst the best Syrahs I’ve had, and I drink a lot of Syrah. In short, this is stunning wine with very few peers.
Sadie Family is no longer imported into British Columbia, and is even a difficult find in the United States. I saw a couple bottles of a more recent vintage of this wine on LCBO shelves in Toronto a couple months ago, but this is very rare. I advise purchasing this wine if you see it. I hope an adventurous importer takes another stab at importing these – perhaps direct selling them to high end buyers would ensure viability. You can certainly sign me up.