Sadie Family Old Vines Series ‘T Voetpad 2016 ~ South Africa’s Grand Cru of White Blends…

Every few weeks I get a phone call from an UK journalist looking for commentary for an upcoming piece in one journal / supplement or another. How is the premium South African category faring? What are South Africa’s best USP’s? (unique selling points), What are the most exciting regions or varietals etc? While Chenin Blanc and more latterly, Cinsaut, have become two of South Africa’s trendiest “calling cards”, there is still only one true wine category in South Africa (other than Pinotage perhaps), that remains completely unrivalled in the global world of fine wine… the great Cape White Blend.


There can be few doubts that the Sadie Family Wines Palladius White Blend is one of the best white blends in South Africa at the moment, however, the truth remains that it is the small production, almost unobtainable ‘T Voetpad from the Sadie Old Vine Series that has emerged in the last few years as the most coveted white blend for collectors. An exquisite field blend of Semillon Blanc, Semillon Gris, Palomino, Chenin Blanc and Muscat d’Alexandrie, the name refers to ‘the footpath’ and is one of South Africa’s most remote vineyards, a 1.4 hectare site planted on their own rootstocks between 1900 and 1928, which are picked together and fermented together in old wooden casks.

The Cape White Blend in all its forms remains a very special category because the greatest expressions are not just conjured up creations, they are formidable, thoughtful wines with a sense of confidence, terroir, balance, and delicious synergistic flavours. Varietals you’d expect to be incongruous marry seamlessly and genuinely create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This synergy factor is the Holy Grail that other international producers have found almost impossible to replicate. The South African wine industry is truly blessed to have this joker in its marketing hand.

Sadie Family Old Vines Series ‘T Voetpad 2016, Swartland, 13.5 Abv.

This eclectic 2016 white blend of Semillon Blanc, Semillon Gris, Chenin Blanc, Palomino and Muscat d’Alexandrie has a wonderfully dusty, aromatic, complex nose of stony, pithy, crunchy yellow pears, pineapple pastille, pear drop bon bons, lemon rind, sea breeze and nutty, piquant nuances. The palate shows such wonderful salty, briney intensity without any heavy, unctuous weight of fruit. Plenty of richness certainly, with a fine grained pithy, grippy texture and impressively fresh acids. I love the purity and inner energy of this wine. The finish is fresh, precise, full of vigour and long, with hints of lemon butter, lanolin, hazelnut and pear skins. This may be the product of a warm, dry, slightly awkward vintage, but the finished results in the bottle are every bit as impressive as the wine’s reputation. Drink now to 2028+

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

“The amazing thing about ‘T Voetpad is the fact that it is our most diverse co-planted vineyard with 5 varieties, but it is usually our most harmonious wine at bottling; something that is nearly impossible to comprehend. Our only explanation is that when vines grow together for more than 100 years, they all become one ‘mind’!” ~ Eben Sadie

The Sadie Family Old Vine Series Treinspoor 2016 from the Swartland Strikes the Grand Jackpot…

Having just tasted Duncan Savage’s new 2016 Are We There Yet? Touriga Nacional based blend, reinforced again what great potential these “alternative” warm climate varieties have in a future South African wine landscape. While this was Duncan’s first release, Eben Sadie on the other hand is already half a decade into the Treinspoor releases.


Made from 42 year old Tinta Barocca sourced from a vineyard in the Swartland, the 2016 new release appears to have reached a nouveau of quality not seen before for this variety in South Africa. This latest bottling rides on a wave of lifted perfumed perfection, with intense red cherry pastille, parma violets, rose water and sweet jasmine all mingling with seductive, piecing red and black bramble berry fruits. The palate shows a vibrant focus and purity of fruit I don’t recall ever seeing to this degree on this wine before. There are lashings of sweet cherry sherbet bon bons, pink musk sweets, red currant confit , purple nastergal (African nightshade berry), and tart Victoria plums. Wonderful concentration, palate tingling acidity freshness and superb harmonious depth. The ‘poor cousin’ in the Old Vine Series has just hit the jackpot and is riding high. Drink now to 2030+

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The new Sadie Family Cellar in the Swartland

I guess it makes complete sense then when Eben says he feels that this red grape Tinta Barocca “might well transport the Swartland Terroir best into liquid form, purely because it captures the soils and the earthiness of the place.” 

New mixed plantings at the winery including Grenache, Carignan, Cinsaut, Counnoise, Terret Noir, Alicante Bouchet, Pontac, and Tinta Barocca.

Eben regarded his 2015 as the most refined version ever, but for me, the 2016 I tasted surpasses even this monumental achievement.
Visiting Eden Sadie in March 2017

Tasting The Highly Lauded Skerpioen 2015 Old Vines Series White From Sadie Family Wines… 

A warm balmy evening in London with a fish braai in prospect called for an appropriate white wine match. With my sea bass marinating away and my prawn skewers primed for the BBQ, a saline, mineral driven white was called for. 


This beauty from Eben Sadie is a field blend of interplanted Chenin Blanc and Palomino vines. These unirrigated old bush vines were planted between the years 1958 to 1967 in extremely chalky soils in one of the coolest locations in the Swartland. 

Tasting with Eben and Rosa Kruger in March 2017

Of all Eben Sadie’s Old Vine Series wines, the Skerpioen white is perhaps the most intriguing of the lot. Often austere in youth, this wine is so mineral driven and restrained that it often confounds the critics. As Christian Eedes from South Africa’s Wine Magazine comments…. “a perplexing wine…” with a minerality and austerity that is often “mesmerising”. 


Sadie Family Old Vines Series Skerpioen 2015, Swartland, 14 Abv.

Pale straw yellow, this expressive 2015 has a spicy pithy nose of lime peel, lemon grass, dried herbs, liquid minerals and wet chalk. Very grown up and old-worldy. Layer upon layer of granite, crushed gravel and briney sea breeze salinity notes resonate. But there is a white peach, grassy, aromatic, savoury buttery note riding in tandem with the intense liquid minerality. The nose follows to the palate in a very precise, pin point manner. There is plenty of glycerol depth, pithy, dusty phenolic aromatics, and a rasping dry lemon, apple purée and a mineral austerity finish. From start to finish, the palate is electric and fresh with racy acids and remains thoroughly linear and focused. This wine’s greatness is firmly embedded in the philosophy of ‘less is more’.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Old Vines Project Goes Live In London With One of the Tastings of the Year…

The 28th of June was a momentous day in the history of South African wine. The Old Vines Tasting at South Africa House in London presented by Andre Morgenthal and Jo Wehring of Wines of South Africa, profiled 77 of the most profound red and white wines produced in South Africa’s diverse winelands. 


The debate surrounding the identification, preservation and promotion of South Africa’s old vines has long been championed by viticulturalist Rosa Kruger, and now with Ex-Wosa marketing specialist Andre Morgenthal on board, the project has moved into a higher gear. 


Most of the top old Vine wines are made in very small quantities, so it was heartening to see the support given to this tasting from South Africa’s top producers, who provided some true rarities and highly sought after fine wines. Only by drinking these gems, and understanding the blood, sweat and tears that go into making these labours of love, can consumers understand why these wines cost more to buy but offer something very special qualitatively.


No, old vines alone don’t guarantee quality. But the producers involved in the Old Vine Project, and the related certification for 35+ year old vines that will follow imminently, will serve as an important seal of authenticity and commitment to both the quality of old vine wine production and the preservation of these historic vineyards. 


But as Andre Morgenthal pointed out, the the Old Vine Project’s work will also extend to the greater protection, preservation and healthy vine husbandry promotion of 20 to 30 year old vineyards that will be the old vines of the future. This can surely only be a good thing for the industry as a whole.

Some of the Fine Wine Safari highlights of the tasting are illustrated below. This was certainly one of the most exciting array of South African wines presented in London in our generation. High praise indeed, but the scores speak for themselves.
Old Vine Tasting:

Raats Family Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016 – 94+/100 GS


Kaapzicht Wine Estate 1947 Chenin Blanc 2016 – 95/100 GS


David & Nadia Chenin Blanc 2016 – 94/100 GS


Thistle & Weed Duwweltjie Chenin Blanc 2016 – 93+/100 GS

Hogan Chenin Blanc 2016 – 94+/100 GS

DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016 – 94+/100 GS

AA Badenhorst Golden Slopes Steen 2016 – 95/100 GS


Alheit Vineyards Radio Lazarus Chenin Blanc 2016 – 95+/100

Simonsig Estate Chenin Avec Chene 2015 – 94/100 GS

Gabrielskloof Elodie Chenin Blanc 2015 – 93+/100 GS


Botanica Wines Mary Delany Collection Chenin Blanc 2015 – 95/100 GS


Bosman Optenhorst Chenin Blanc 2016 – 95+/100 GS

Dewaldt Heyns Family Wines Weathered Hands Chenin Blanc 2013 – 94/100 GS


Adoro Wines Naude Chenin Blanc 2013 – 96+/100 GS


Alheit Vineyards Cartology Chenin Blanc Semillon 2015 – 95/100 GS

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Chenin Blanc Semillon 2011 – 96/100 GS

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Old Vines White Blend 2014 – 95+/100 GS


Sadie Family Wines t’Voetpad White Blend 2016 – 97/100 GS


Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Chenin Blanc 2016 – 96+/100 GS


Alheit Vineyards La Colline Vineyard Semillon 2016 – 97+/100 GS

Thorne & Daughters Paper Kite Semillon 2016 – 95+/100 GS


Rickety Bridge Landau du Val Semillon 2014 – 95/100 GS

Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2015 – 95/100 GS


Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2004 – 96/100 GS


Adoro Wines Naude Cinsaut 2014 – 95/100 GS


AA Badenhorst Raaigras Grenache 2016 – 93+/100 GS

Elemental Bob Cosmic Flower Tinta Barocca 2017 – 93+/100 GS


Sadie Family Wines Treinspoor Tinta Barocca 2016 – 96+/100 GS

Dewaldt Heyns Family Wines Weathered Hands Pinotage 2012 – 93+/100 GS

Seek these wines out and buy with confidence! 

Tasting Smiley NV v3 ~ A Wine that May Well Define a New Era in South African Winemaking…

Today I met up with Swartland young gun Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons from the Silvervis – Terracura winery. Shaped in many ways by his days working as the assistant winemaker at Reyneke, Ryan still very much has an eye on minimalist, non-intervention winemaking where purity and cleanliness in the wines are never compromised. 


Ryan thrives on pushing boundaries and few wines on the South African, indeed the global market, push the wine making norms like that of the Smiley NV Chenin Blanc. Whether the wine came about by accident or not, it’s third release marks a change where the wines purity, clarity and stylistic confidence come to the fore.


Smiley NV v3 (Version 3) Swartland Chenin Blanc, 12.5 Abv.

Slightly smokey straw yellow, touch opaque. The aromatics are fresh, citric and vibrant, showing saline, sea breeze and oyster shell notes which currently dominate the lemon lime white citrus fruits. Production is now up to 7,500 bottles of this, the 3rd non-vintage release. There’s a fascinating lime pith and red cherry stone fruit exotic note that develops. The palate entry is taught and linear with dusty briney minerality, alka seltzer and granitic wet stone terroir notes. The finish is textured and zippy and continues to unfurl with more and more complexity until it eventually ends with a tangerine pith, dried herbs, and a wet slate punch. What impressive complexity, palate texture and of course value for money. Funky Swartland kit at its very best! 

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


The Chenin Blanc for this wine is sourced from vineyards in the Siebrietskloof and Joubertskloof in the Paardeberg. So basically all on granitic soils. The 2017 blend is made up of 50% of 2017, 35% of 2016, 10% of 2015, with the balance from 2014. The 4 components consist of a barrel fermented portion, a “son wyn” (Sun wine) maderised portion (from 2014), a flor component from demijohns, and a skin contact portion that forms 50% of the final blend.


This truly is one of South Africa’s most profound wines. If you’re a wine merchant, your clients would love to indulge themselves in this wine. For sommeliers… well, this has to be a dream come true wine, with such salinity, fresh vibrant complexity and food friendly options. Either way, it’s a must try wine.

(Recommended Retail from £16-18 per bottle)   

Another New Super Impressive White Release From Larger Than Life Winemaker Donovan Rall…

I recently caught up with the Viking giant Donovan Rall to taste his exciting new release whites and reds. I first met Donovan at the White Blend Seminar in 2009 where I co-presented a seminar at Forest44 in Stellenbosch with Eben Sadie. He was attending with a broad who’s who of the younger generation of the South African wine industry. 


He pulled me over at the end and offered up two rare bottles of his sold out first vintage Rall White Blend that had just won 5 stars in the Platter Guide. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Donovan had previously worked at premium London retailer Harvey Nichols with our Handford General Manager, Gavin Deaville. Donovan asked me to take the bottles back to London and enjoy them with Gavin and let him know what I thought of the wine.


Fast forward almost 8 years and Donovan is an established producer of some very fine whites and reds from multiple regions. But it was this unusual, saline, fresh Grenache Blanc 2016 that caught my eye at our recent tasting and made me sit up and pay closer attention.


(The only previous South African Grenache Blanc I’ve enjoyed this much was Chris Williams’s Foundry 2013 that garnered a sizeable amount of praise in the UK media, including very favourable commentary from Tim Atkin MW and Victoria Moore of The Telegraph broadsheet newspaper.)


Rall Grenache Blanc 2016, W.O. Piekenierskloof, 12.5 Abv.

Partially skin Fermented in a combination of open top wood fermenters (20%) and Eggs (80%), then aged in concrete and old oak, this compelling white has a very pronounced saline, sea breeze, briney salinity mixed with yellow stone fruits, white flowers and crunchy white peaches. The palate is taught, displaying a zippy freshness, and a dusty, granitic, alka seltzer mineral complexity. There are some waxy phenolics adding texture and extra depth, but the wine retains great tension and remains fine and focused from start to finish. A genuinely impressive, high achieving expression of Grenache Blanc. Chapeau Donovan!

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Getting In the Mood For the Real Wine Fair with Testalonga El Bandito Cortez Chenin Blanc…

Craig Hawkins’ interpretation of Chenin Blanc can divide opinion. Well, I love his wines. He always seems to somehow capture extra nerve, wound spring tension and vibrant freshness. There’s much more to it than merely explaining it as a result of earlier picking having tasted a lot of early picked versions that are hard, tart, one dimensional and lacking in texture and flavour complexity. No such problems for Craig’s wines.


I’ve never made a white wine myself, only red, but having followed Craig’s evolution as a winemaker, you can really see the subtle tricks he’s learnt along the way while making some “funky” whites with up to 2 years skin contact. As he always told me… “I wasn’t looking for any particular result with all the experimentation with skin contact, I just wanted to see how far I could push things … and learn something in the process.”


Well, Craig has certainly reined things in a little over the past few years, a clear sign that he has matured into a high quality, thoughtful, considerate winemaker. But importantly, he has never compromised his flair or his wines characterful natural purity and textural style. With his 2015 El Bandito Cortez, Craig has hit his zenith with Chenin Blanc.


Testalonga El Bandito Cortez Chenin Blanc 2015, 12.5 Abv.

This Chenin Blanc has a beautifully bright pale golden colour with aromas of baked crab apples, white bread drizzled with honey, incense, and tinned white peaches in syrup. Superbly expressive and complex. The palate is cool, taught and intense with Craig’s hallmark low pH feel and vibrant tension, but with perhaps a few extra layers thanks to the sublime 2015 vintage character. Plenty of racy freshness, white citrus, pithy river pebble minerality, waxy tangerine peel, fresh fennel and beautiful briney, salty sea breeze zest. This wine typifies low intervention winemaking at its very best. Decant before serving for best results. Drink from 2017 to 2030+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)