Alex Dale, the Vinnie Jones of SA wine, hails Eben Sadie as the most exciting winemaker in SA. And he’s not wrong. Ex Africa semper aliquid novi as they say over at Vergelegen and the same from the Paardeberg, with bells on. For Eben no longer needs to trek out to obscure West Coast vineyards with romantic names like Skurfberg for his Red Sémillon fix. There is plenty on the Paardeberg and some within walking distance of Orangerie where Eben has refurbished the cellar in a most tasty fashion.
After a neighbourly late Easter Sunday braai with Siebritskloof stalwart Barry Schreiber, postprandially we repaired to his 1ha Sémillon bushvine vineyard planted in 1965 on Kweperfontein within spitting distance of Château Pendock at Lemoenfontein. Barry proudly showed me his Red Sémillon bushvines, still heavy with fruit ignored by the pickers who harvested the rest for Ian Naudé’s wonderful Adoro white blend.
Interspersed like brunettes in the Norwegian finals of Miss World, they may have been ignored by Ian’s operative Lucas de Kock and the volk, but they surely won’t be by SA winelovers once the covers are lifted on Eben’s activities this summer and wine-lovers get to taste the fruits of his labours in bottle, sometime next year. Watch this space.
Barry still managed to harvest a respectable 9 tons of green grapes and realized far more than double the going rate paid by the Swartland Co-op, an address to which I delivered 68 tons of grapes in February. Now mostly raisined, there’s an outside chance to make the first Red Sémillon late harvest wine from the 2009 vintage, although quantities will make Eben’s Mrs. Kirsten look like KWV’s Café Culture. Hiding in plain sight all the time, Red Sémillon is yet another treasure from the Paardeberg, although like barefoot hillbillies in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, outsiders wearing anoraks will not be welcome.
The last time they came they wore KWV grey shoes and bore infamous rootstock that the then parastatal insisted be planted. A black day indeed and one which introduced a host of parasites and plant viruses unknown in the Siebritskloof until then.
Perhaps the only exception might be Michael Fridjhon, currently writing a book on SA terroir, ably assisted by chef Lyn Woodward. Michael notes ruefully “it’s like an accordion, expanding and contracting all the time” so this latest discovery (along with the reds in Basil Landau’s 100 year old Sémillon vineyard in Franschhoek) means we’re in an expansion phase, like solar activity and publishing wine books.
Michel Bettane, premier winewriter from La France is back in SA next month to judge at Michael’s Trophy Wine Show, so perhaps a site visit might be arranged. For the last time he was out here, Michel famously noted “Sémillon is the only SA cultivar I have tasted which showed any hope of terroir.” Or words to that effect, translated from beneath a heavy French accent.
I had the great honor of growing up and surfing with Eben Sadie. Admittedly one would say I’m slightly biased, however I had my first glass of Mrs Kirsten’s wine the other day. Traded for a few fish with Eben’s mother and flown all the way over the London, I can say that I have never tasted a better white in my life!
Hail the master which my dear old friend has become!