When I heard of all the accolades it was receiving, I was determined to buy a bottle of Palladius, a white wine produced by the Sadie family in the Swartland wine region. ‘Determined’ that is until I saw the price tag and my eyes started to water. It costs 72 quid a bottle. Blimey! How could I, a mere journalist afford this? No, I decided, I must be content to grovel among the el cheapo wines. The Olympian realm of Eben Sadie’s wines are, I realise, reserved for investment bankers (or used to be) and African cabinet ministers.
Anyway, Eben Sadie’s Palladius and Columella wines are referred to with almost reverential whispers in the SA wine industry because rarely, if ever, have South African wines received such accolades:
The Sadie Family Palladius 2008 was voted best white wine in South Africa by the wine bible, the John Platter Wine Guide while their red blend, Columella 2007, was awarded five stars (£52 pounds). Not too shabby, no? Well, how about this: the haughty US Wine Spectator awarded Columella 95 point out of a possible 100 – the only SA wine to achieve this distinction.
When I first made contact with the Sadie family on their wine estate in the Swartland, Eben Sadie’s sister was discreet but firm as she asked if I could first read through the material she was sending me before interviewing Eben. In other words, she was telling me not to ask her brother stupid questions.
This young winemaker is passionate, outspoken and controversial. He has been described as both an enfant terrible and superstar in Decanter Magazine. The magazine went on to quote one of his competitors who fired a broadside, saying Eben Sadie believes his own bulls**t (sour grapes?). Yet he has also been described as possibly the best winemaker in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s no mean praise, considering that the Swartland has always been regarded as a bit of a backwater, at least in oenological terms.
So, um … the next time you win the lottery, you know which wines to buy.