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

Tasting Carl van der Merwe’s Impressive New White and Red Blends from Stellenbosch…

Carl joined award winning DeMorgenzon winery owned by Hilton and Wendy Applebaum in July 2010 after an 8 year stint at Quoin Rock Winery in Stellenbosch where he made a range of highly regarded wines which duly collected many trade accolades.


Whilst Carl’s extraordinary talent in the winery and genius in the cellar add immeasurably to DeMorgenzon, it is reassuring to see that the Applebaums have allowed Carl to experiment with his new venture… The Great White and The Great Red, two interesting blends.

The Great White Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon / Chenin Blanc 2015, 13.5 Abv.

This wine features Sauvignon and Semillon as well as 10% Chenin Blanc that was barrel fermented. There is plenty of lifted aromatics and grassy lime peel, lemon grass, and dusty white peach stone fruit. The palate is full and textural, one of Carl’s winemaking signatures, with lovely round harmonious, fleshy, creamy mouthfeel. This wine has impressive gravitas for its price point (£17-£18pb) and a complex, spicy granitic mineral finish with great lucidity.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Great Red Cabernet Sauvignon / Cinsaut / Cabernet Franc / Petit Verdot 2015, 14 Abv.

A very attractive nose greets you on this well constructed, well proportioned red. There is plenty of sweet spicy red fruit, soft fleshy red currants, sweet leaf, earl grey tea, cedar and tobacco spice. There is an opulence and generosity to the wine brimming with sweet black berry and foresty bramble fruits. Full core of fruit, dense but precise and elegant with a very fine seamless texture and a soft, pithy red cherry skin finish. A fine effort.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Carl is currently working towards his British Master of Wine, for which we wish him the best of luck. South Africa is long overdue another MW in its ranks! 

Hemelrand Vine Garden ~ A Premium Alheit Family Wine for the Local South African Market…

We are spoilt in the UK. We often get the lions share of allocations of rare, small production, icon or boutique wines to the annoyance of the home market. The European and other international markets have been far quicker to accept and pay the premium prices these wines often command.


We all know the local SA home market has an inbuilt aversion to paying more than R150 (£8.99) a bottle for a white wine, and perhaps R250-R300 (£16.99) max for a bottle of red. As long as this mentality prevails, most of SA’s greatest wines will be exported to international markets. 

No point being sour grapes about this fact. It’s a reality that only the local consumers themselves can change. Though, in 2016, I have seen a glimmer of hope that buying behaviour is starting to change in the local market. 
Producers and distributors are working harder than ever on more innovative ways to get locals to part with their hard earned cash. Premium producers like Vilafonte have had great success with their exclusive wine members club, while De Toren has successfully carved out a successful premium on-trade niche for their Book XVII and Black Lion wines. Mullineux & Leeuw Family Wines have also been successful with their exclusive wine club micro-vinifications that help to cast an even broader halo over their entire range of fine wines. 

So it was with great interest that I learnt about Chris Alheit’s new 2015 single vineyard release earlier this year… with a small(ish) production of 5000 bottles primarily destined for the local South African market. 

Chris “Butch” Alheit with his 2016 new releases including the maiden Hemelrand Vine Garden

Inspired by great Mediterranean white wines such as Mas de Dumass Gassac, Le Soula, and Domaine de La Grange des Peres, the Hemelrand Vine Garden white is produced from a new “fifth-leaf” vineyard planted directly behind the Hemelrand cellar on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, situated at 360 meters above sea level, on gravelly clay, with Sandstone intrusions. The blend is comprised of 48% Roussanne, 27% Chenin, 22% Chardonnay and 3% Verdelho.


Tasting Note: A pale pineapple yellow, this white blend is laced with dusty white citrus minerality, limestone, grapefruit zest and wet chalk. There’s a real old world restraint permeating this wine. The palate is intense and concentrated, bursting with yellow citrus, white peach, pineapple pastille, salty lemon and a honied, Bon Bon finish. I was expecting this young wine to be a lot tighter and leaner, but once again, the 2015 vintage intensity and opulence clearly shines through. Add to that the Alheit blending skill, and you’re gifted a magical blend, seamlessly woven together, with a complex, slightly oily finish. Lovely now but will be even better in 2 to 3 years time. (Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Seduction in a Glass ~ Revisiting Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2014 White Blend…

The sensational Rocking Horse Cape white blend from winemaker John Seccombe, is a eclectic blend of Roussanne, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Semillon from vineyards between 19 and 34 years old. 

All naturally fermented with wild yeasts, with whole bunch pressing, using no new oak, and bâtonnage employed once a month. The lovely name comes from a rocking horse made for John’’s oldest daughter out of old oak barrel staves.

John Seccombe in his leopard tank top explaining the production of Rocking Horse

Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2014, 13.5 Abv., WO Western Cape 

Tasting Note: The 2014 vintage of this Cape white blend is a blend of 35% Chenin Blanc (Bottelary and Swartland), 28% Roussanne (Voor Paardeberg), 22% Semillon (Franschhoek), 14% Chardonnay and 1% Viognier (both Overberg) that was matured in old oak for approximately 10 months. A medium straw colour, the nose is jam packed with complex lemon biscuit, lemon creme pie, pineapple pastille fruits, red liquorice, sweet fennel and vanilla pod spice. These flavours follow to a voluptuous, fleshy palate where the flavours meld into a seductive, seamlessly balanced yellow fruit melange framed by subtle creamy oak notes and a vibrant, mouth watering acidity. Such intensity, depth and flavourful length. This is another epic rendition of a Chenin led blend that’s drinking beautifully. Will be interesting to see how this wine ages. Drink now to 2022+ (Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)