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Jancis Robinson MW on "The Other Sadies"

Any well-informed observer of the Cape wine scene would readily mention in this context the name Sadie (rhymes with Hardy). It was the admirable Eben (pronounced 'earbin') Sadie who put Swartland, focus of new-wave Cape wine, on the international map with his Sadie Family bottlings.

David Nadia in Pinotage on Paardebosch farm

But another Sadie is increasingly a force to be reckoned with. For obvious reasons, David Sadie does not use his surname for his magnificent range of Swartland wines. I first came across his wine four years ago in a Cotswold hotel that happens to be close to the home of the Cathay Pacific pilot who used to be his principal UK importer. A 2012 Grenache labelled simply David leapt out of the glass to land as a wine of the week. Refreshing Grenache is no longer a novelty now that we have a host from places such as the Gredos Mountains, McLaren Vale and the south of France, but in 2014 I described this Swartland wine as 'mould-breaking. Mineral somehow and beautifully balanced, even delicate. Not too sweet. Very appetising and clearly lovingly made. A triumph!' 

When that wine was made, David and his soil-scientist wife Nadia were in full-time work elsewhere, making a tiny amount of wine in their spare time in rented space. The 2016 vintage was the first that saw them established in their own winery on the slopes of the Paardeberg, on what David describes as 'a lifestyle farm' owned jointly by a Norwegian and a local. They now have some of their own vineyards, and take fruit from others on the basis of a handshake, as is the way for the numerous young guns in Swartland. 

 

David is particularly proud of being unusual among this energetic new band of winemakers in being of Swartland stock. The Sadies, German originally, have been Swartland farmers (wheat is the principal crop) since the eighteenth century. Tall and well built, David looks every inch the farmer. His father is an accountant, which must be useful, and his brother plays rugby for Agen in south-west France.

Although they have had several approaches from would-be investors, David & Nadia (the brand name they have settled on) eventually want their own farm to hand on to their two young sons – and are already making preparations for the return of the rugby player, in the form of the sourdough bakery they are opening in the nearby town of Malmesbury.

No South African farmer can be unaware of the immense social challenges of their environment. One wine estate that went more than the extra mile to provide better conditions for its workers, Solms-Delta, part financed by a member of the Anglo-American Astor family, has just been threatened with liquidation, and a government takeover of some of the land. The Sadies' permanent staff comprises four local homeless people. Part of the Sadies' move to what they call 'biological farming', away from machines and agrochemicals, is 'to try to employ people instead, to give hope to them'.

David and Nadia met when studying at Stellenbosch, South Africa's leading wine university. Their studies, in 2006 and 2007, happened to coincide with a peak in the number of student winemakers, which drove many of them out of the country to find work. David Sadie worked inter alia for Yves Cuilleron in the northern Rhône, land of Syrah. When he and Nadia were getting going as weekend winemakers in 2011 they initially thought their signature grape would be what he calls 'Sheerah' but realised subsequently that they preferred the southern Rhône grape Grenache, which he describes as 'poor man's Pinot'. Château Rayas, the most delicate of Châteauneuf-du-Papes, is his model. He buys a few bottles of its cheaper stablemate Pignan every year. Grenache has come into its own on the Cape during the last two years' severe drought; it needs only half as much water as Syrah. Although, according to David, the average yields in 2018 on their dry-farmed vineyards were barely 10 hl/ha, about a quarter of the average for fine French wine.

David & Nadia now make a range of red Grenaches and white Chenin Blancs, all enlivened by the tense, grainy freshness that they conjure from their vineyards on granite and shale. Ten of the 15 vineyards they work with are older than 35 years so qualify for the admirable South African Old Vine Project. But unfortunately there is a shortage of good Grenache grapes on the Cape, with severe and sometimes well-funded competition for the produce of the best old Piekenierskloof vines. David and Nadia with their deliberate, long-term goals have been planting a hectare of carefully selected (no clones) Grenache a year. Presumably the thought is that by the time their sons are in their prime, this too will qualify for the Old Vine Project.

Part of their long-termism has been to set up an international sales network. Their website lists importers in 21 countries with the enthusiastic South African specialist Pascal Schildt of Rhode Island their US importer. They have had some ups and downs in the UK market but recently landed rather smartly in St James's Street on the glamorous list of Justerini & Brooks, the traditional fine-wine merchant founded at much the same time as the Sadies settled in Swartland.

Even on the J&B list, the prices – which are considerably more than you would pay in Cape Town – seem to me to be ridiculously low for the quality. Their single-vineyard bottlings from Höe-Steen and Skaliekop vineyards are £240 in bond for six-bottle cases while their brilliant white blend Astargos is just £105 and the exceptionally airy Pinotage (also sold by the Swedish monopoly) is £175. These are fifth-growth prices for first-growth quality.

Justerinis' rivals across the street Berry Bros & Rudd import The Sadie Family wines, which are also superb old-vine marvels, and a little more varied than David & Nadia's current range. They are so sought after that they rarely feature on Berrys' retail website – and prices are considerably higher than the other Sadies'. Six bottles of The Sadie Family 2015 Columella is currently on offer at £425. I would be surprised if David & Nadia's wines remain at their current price levels.

About Kinnegar

Kinnegar Wines was born almost by accident and been growing organically since.

In 1998, I was in the midde of a two year diploma course with the London Wine & Spirits Trust when an opportunity came up to visit South Africa's Western Cape. Naturally, I was keen to avail of the opportunity to learn more about viticulture and winemaking in South Africa.

We had an excellent guide who brought us to a number of the Cape's leading estates including Thelema and De Trafford where we had in depth vineyard and cellars tours. At the end of the day, I wanted to take back some of the wonderful wines we had tasted for our own use. It was not possible to take two or three cases of wine with us on our flight and shipping such a small quantity was more than the cost of wines. So I had the mad idea of shipping a pallet! Clearly, I had to start selling these wines and so began Kinnegar Wines. Ashford Castle took many of the wines and continue to list them and newer arrivals ever since.

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