We finished pressing the last of this 2018 vintage and live in the hope that it is never to be repeated again in terms of the drought conditions and their effect.
When we lived the reality of the drought in the 2016 to 2017 season we thought it could not in any way get worse, but were we wrong and looking back at the 2017 vintage today, it seems to have been a breeze compared to our most recent harvest.
Our initial feelings and observations of the 2017 harvest were that the grapes definitely came in with much lower levels of ripeness and acidity; and in general we were of the view that the wines would have a more limited longevity than usual: the new equilibrium suggested simpler wines with a lesser inner core structure and weight. And yet, as the 2017 vintage continued ageing in the casks, clay and concrete vats it became evident that the wines were punching way above their weight.
In general the alcohol levels are a level lower than before by around 0.5%. It is only in the very northern territories of the Olifantsrivier where the usual level of ripeness of the grapes was maintained, but in the Swartland there was a definite reduction.
The acidities are lower and again on average by 0.5 grams per litre; and it actually makes for earlier drinkability on the 2017 wines, not being a bad thing at all as many of the other vintages prior to 2017 need to stay under cork for a significant period of time.
Our Signature Red, the Columella, is aged for 1 year longer in cask and tank prior to bottling, thus being a 2016 vintage and a wine with immense promise. This Columella has a much deeper colour and concentration and is still very compact and in need of obvious ageing, but it is already showing great complexity in that the aromatics are not a singular line, but the coming together of many aspects. The aromas are a combination of bright fresh red fruits which then pass over to the riper black stone fruit. The wine is also very earthy and seems to live on a bed of freshly ploughed earth – and then there is the appearance of much darker graphite aromatics as well.
The texture is still super compact and needs time: it is the result of 12 months ageing in barrels (8% new) and thereafter an additional 12 months in old, big oval casks. We bottle directly from the cask and the philosophy is to have minimum impact on the character of the grapes and rather just have the fruit express itself.
This 2016 vintage of Palladius has the simplicity of minimalistic design with nothing that shouts out and every one of the 11 varietals that drive this wine just seems to be in perfect synchronization.
The aromas are a journey of more tropical, ripe fruit aspects going all the way to a very saline and mineral texture. The most exciting aspect of this 2016 vintage is simply the length and the persistence of the tannin on the palate.
This wine spends its first year of ageing in clay amphorae and in concrete eggs and then an additional year of ageing of the final blend in big oak casks.
The result is incredible stability and the wine leaves one with the clear impression that the Palladius is on the very same level as the Columella and they can truly run together as Signatures.
OLD VINE SERIES
The 2017 vintage in the Olifantsrivier region was also a challenge, but the advantage is the altitude at which this vineyard grows which brings a bit of a reduction of moisture stress. This vintage is an exhibition of bright red fruit like almost under-ripe cherries and strawberry flavours with even aspects of plums picked early. The tannins are softer and more integrated at this early stage in comparison to those of other years and the wine is extremely approachable – all indications are that it will vaporize out of cellars from the word go.
We picked the Cinsaut grapes in the Pofadder vineyard quite early and the result is a wine with an ultra-bright red fruit spectrum, almost like pomegranate seeds; and the fruit is very lifted in the glass. The tannins are still tight, steely – even crispy and granular, and the fruit is very much like the day we picked the grapes, therefore the wine still needs more time to develop in the bottle… or in the glass, where it develops some spicy aromatics when given the time to do so.
Currently this 2017 presents itself as very-straight-down- the-line.
We had a very strong release in 2016 with this vineyard, but in our opinion the 2017 is even better and a big contender for being the wine of the vintage, simply in view of its overall complexity.
The purity and the focus of the Tinta Barocca grape place it in many ways above more fashionable varieties in terms of ultra-quality wine. The general aromatics are still closed up and the wine needs time to unfold, but the general brightness of the fruit and some serious black stone fruit aromatics suggest that much more is to come from this wine – it is currently but revealing only a fraction of its true personality. The lower alcohol, lifted tannin and acidity make for a very savoury finish and a wine that can truly age.
This vineyard has such a signature to it and without fail the salty saline and mineral DNA print of the site is everywhere to be found in this wine. The 2017 vintage also has some slightly riper honey blossom characteristics and the fruit is quite compressed – and a notion of the quince fruit can also be found in the aromatics. The finish on the wine is of great length. Fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
Skurfberg fruit came in fully ripe in 2017 and produced a very serious wine in the Chenin arena. The aromatics are very spicy, white pepper with some flinty tones that then cross over into again the stone fruit aromas of apples and pear skin. There is also a minerality that is running throughout the wine and not only on the aromatics, but it carries through to the palate.
This wine needs a serious plate of food.
In 2017 we also picked the Semillon Blanc and Gris earlier than our traditional picking dates and the wine in itself displays a much more compact structure; and the aromas start off being very spicy with ginger aspects and then grow and become more herbal. There are even some baked guava flavours that is compressed by waxy characteristics. It is for sure a fresher version of this vineyard in a bottle.
‘T Voetpad 2017
This is also a strong contender for wine-of-the-vintage for just being so complex from the word go. The aromatics start off in the quince and restrained aspects and then move over into bigger white stone fruit aspects. The Semillon component is prominent with a waxy lanolin dynamic, being much more apparent than in normal years. The wet straw helm characteristics normally present in ‘T Voetpad is also very prominent in this vintage. The wine is extremely well- textured and has a very long finish and the most perfect equilibrium in the mouth feel.
Mev. Kirsten 2017
The first impression on the nose of the Mev. Kirsten is always a sensation of almost stepping back into time and this 2017 truly lives up to the expectation. The aromatics in this vintage are very diverse and stretch from ripe Granny Smith apples all the way through to heavier, dried apricot characters. The wine is in a tug-of-war between ripe and barely ripe fruit and this tension and diverse character make for a most amazing wine for food pairings. This Mev. Kirsten is in almost two worlds in one. The wine has massive tannins and texture and can stand its ground in any space, but the very bright acidity and finesse in the end make for a soft landing. This vintage requires some years of cellaring prior to opening.
All and all, even in the midst of the drought, we are still grateful and relieved that we have some wine available to share with our valued wine friends and although there is much less, we will at least have a reference and the possibility of a reflection in time, when we taste these wines, as to what the droughts bring to or take from the wines.
The 2017 wines are characteristically very different from the norm and if it has to come to one word they are probably more round than usual – a result and a function of the lower acidity and tannins in the fruit.
As The Sadie Family Wines team we would like to thank you for your continued support – we respect and appreciate it…. For the droughts and the losses make up one aspect, but it is an immense consolation to know that we have your support. We hope and pray that the rains will come and that there will be a little more wine to share.