I’ve been a little quiet, these days, and it’s not because I haven’t been thinking about wine. On the contrary, I’ve been coordinating (and hosting) the 14th edition of the Vendredis du Vin, the French-language equivalent of the Wine Blogging Wednesdays. We had a great time with this collective tasting on unusual wines, which led us to discover the likes of gewurztraminer and petite arvine from Languedoc, or a peculiar wine blended from Rhône grenache and pinot noir from Burgundy – a great kind of sacrilege. If you read French (or can make good use of online translation tools), it’s worth a visit. You can see the summary on my French blog.
I could almost have included the magnificent Palladius 2005 from Eben Sadie, one of the most prominent winemakers from South Africa. Sadie took his first professional steps in winemaking, along with Tom Lubbe, at Charles Back’s Spice Route project in the late 1990s, before moving on to making their own wines in South Africa and then in Europe: Sadie in Spain, with his Dits del Terra (fingers of the Earth) project in Priorat, and Lubbe in Roussillon at Matassa. In both cases, they obviously moved up from the big, ripe, sometimes heavy style of Spice Route, whether in the Swartland estates of The Observatory (Lubbe) and The Sadie Family, or in Europe. They both sought to express what the vineyards have to say, often relying on old vines and especially, good soil.
The results are simply exceptional. On opening, Palladius 2005 just burst forward with aromas reminiscent of a great white bordeaux. But what was in there, I wondered? Nothing on the bottle, so I searched around on the web to find out on a technical sheet that it is quite the unusual blend: 30% chenin blanc, 30% viognier, 20% grenache blanc and 20% chardonnay.
The chenin is particularly distinctive, once you know it’s there, with the richness and crispness that can make the Loire whites so great and age-worthy. But it’s mixed in with so many other notes that the total becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Overall, the color is pale gold, still fighting with some flecks of green, showing how young it still is. On the nose, honey, butterscotch, mineral notes, citrus and tropical fruit come through with a touch of herbal notes, feeling generous, but still closely wound. On tasting, it shows great length and a rich, elegant mouthfeel. Flavors, matching the aromas, are compact but lively, with enough acidity filtering through the rich, ripe flavors and sweetness to let you know that this wine will age gracefully and give even more in 5 or 6 years.
Frankly, it is one of the best white wines I’ve had in a long while. Beautiful work. It only makes me more impatient to taste Sadie’s flagship red, Columella. Should be interesting, to say the least.