In just two decades, Sadie Family has established itself as Swartland's premier winery, making this new wine region the starting point for South Africa’s renaissance of quality wines. Eben Sadie, the face of the estate, is convinced that the quality of a wine lies first and foremost in its terroir of origin. His white and red wines, made from old vines from his native land but also from southern European grape varieties adapted to the Mediterranean climate of the Cape, go beyond borders with their alluring balance and great refinement.
Location and size of the Sadie Family estate
What is the history of Sadie Family?
Eben Sadie: South African winemaker with a passion for terroir
The Sadie Family adventure begins with the story of Eben Sadie. After graduating in oenology in Elsenburg, South Africa in the 1990s, Eben Sadie first worked for several wineries in South Africa and then travelled the wine world for 8 years, visiting and working in major wineries in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Burgundy and Oregon. This tour allowed him to understand that the great strength of the wines of the old continent is their capacity to reflect a terroir identified by generations of winegrowers who have known how to adapt the grape varieties and appropriate vinification techniques to it.
An atypical project in South Africa: producing blended wines
Back in South Africa in 1998, he found a job as an oenologist with Charles Back at The Spice Route in Swartland. There he became cellar master and at the same time began to make his own wine from plots he worked himself. His aim was to set himself apart from most Western Cape wines by producing blended wines. Sadie Family was founded in 1999 with the help of his brother and sister.
From the success of the first vintage to the Old Vines range: constant experimentation
In 2000, the first vintage of Columella, a blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre, produced in only 5,000 bottles, was a great success. In 2002, he launched his second iconic Palladius, a blend of Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay and Grenache Blanc. Between 2003 and 2014, Eben Sadie introduced the Sequillo Cellars range in partnership with Cornell Spies, offering more accessible Swartland wines.
Between 2001 and 2011 he founded "Terroir Al Limit" in partnership with Dominik Huber in the Priorat region of Spain, offering wines of great finesse from old Carignan and Grenache vines.
An ever-evolving estate
Since 2009, Sadie Family has focused on the estate's old vines with the Old Vines range, eight parcel selections from the oldest vines in the country. At the same time, Sadie Family is listening to the subtleties of its terroir while adapting to climate change and is planting new vines with varieties from southern Europe.
All you need to know about Sadie Family's terroir
Location and exposure
Sadie Family's grapes come from vineyards within the Swartland appellation. This wine growing region stretches north of Cape Town, between Durbanville and Piketberg, to the Atlantic, with the town of Malmesbury at its centre. The estate's vineyards cover 24 hectares, including mountainous plots and coastal plains with different exposures.
Geology: a wide variety of soil types
The soil types are very varied: granite, limestone, sandstone-based, heavy alluvial soils or light soils. The terroir is therefore very diverse and a wide range of varieties can be planted, such as Palomino, Tinta Barroca or Semillon.
Climate: vines with a Mediterranean influence
With a Mediterranean climate, this region is marked by a particularly visible climate change with increasingly intense heat.
Among the oldest vines in Swartland, the vineyard is also complemented by more than 35 southern European grape varieties, chosen for their drought resistance and adaptation to the heat of Swartland. The vineyards are Goblet vine trained, non-irrigated, and yields are extremely low. They are grassed and grown without pesticides or herbicides and are carefully tended. For Eben Sadie, for example, if a white wine lacks acidity, the problem should not be solved by a technique in the winery, but rather by planting a more acidic variety, with a cooler orientation, or by adapting cultivation techniques very close to biodynamics. Sadie Family places great importance on the quality of the grapes, employing up to 25 people to hand sort each bunch during the harvest.
Eben Sadie uses many old techniques combined with his own experimentation. The reds are made from whole grapes, with long maceration, fermentation with indigenous yeasts and long maturation in barrels with very little new wood. For the whites, pressing is done directly after the harvest with long maturation in tuns, amphorae or ovoid tanks. In addition, another technique is being experimented with: fermentation in jars made from the land surrounding the winery. All the wines are bottled without fining or filtration, and with very little sulphur. Since 2020, Paul Jordann, who has been a trusted Sadie Family member for many years, has been in charge of the winemaking, while Eben focuses on the vineyard.
The Sadie Family wine style
Sadie Family's primary objective is to produce white or red wines that are the best possible ambassadors for Swartland. Eben Sadie says: "Our goal is to make wines that are honest above all else. I'm willing to trade perfection for honesty, because I believe that wine should be the most honest reflection of place."
Wines from Swartland, Stellenbosch, Citrusdal Mountain and Piekenierskloof : the range includes the Sadie Family's signature Columella (red) and Palladius (white) blends, as well as plot-selected wines (Mev. Kirsten, Skerpioen) and single-vineyard wines (Skurfberg, Soldaat, Pofadder). These wines, produced in very limited quantities, are now highly sought after. Over the years and through experimentation, their composition has evolved. The red wine Columella, initially a blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre, aged for 24 months in 60% new barrels, is now also composed of Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache and Tinta Barroca. As for the Palladius white wine, it is currently made from around ten grape varieties from twenty plots. Upon tasting, the reds, with their smooth and silky texture, reveal a very good balance. The whites are well structured and concentrated, revealing a great aromatic complexity in all its great finesse.
Ageing potential of the wines
These wines, perfectly balanced between substance and tension, energy and complexity, are made to be kept for about ten years in order to reveal their full potential.