Eben Sadie is the Sphinx of the Swartland. Every decent sphinx has a secret and in the case of Eben it is “in the even years buy his red and in the odd, his white”. So Columella 2012 when it’s released and Palladius 2011. Any stray bottles of Columella 2010 – the best red to ever emerge from the Swartland – should be procured on sight and ditto for the Palladius 2009.
Anoraks can speculate until Callie Louw’s Ngunis come home from the Porseleinberg on why this is. Suffice to say in Bordeaux, 2013 Sauternes (white) are magic while the reds are rubbish. On the subject of which, why doesn’t Callie call his Syrah “Point Percy at the Porcelain”? It will sell heaps Down Under.
The trick when assessing Eben’s wines is not to listen to his captivating commentary that accompanies the tasting as the truth is usually the opposite of the line being argued. At the vertical tasting of Claude Gilois last week, Eben took great pains to note he was in the business of making regional wines when it is quite clear from tasting that it is the man twiddling the knobs who determines the final mix. Sure soil, vineyard aspect, phases of the moon, latitude, Parker rating all play a part in how the wine tastes.
But these are all third order effects compared to decisions of the winemaker. As the sphinx demonstrated in a vertical tasting of Columella. The vineyards are the same and the blends within a percent or so of the three cultivars. OK there is climatic variation, but the amount of new wood used to mature the wine and for how long is the dominant factor, all other things being more of less equal.
The proof of the pudding it that when it comes to his own purchases, Eben himself cherchez le man. In his case five Burgundians (well six from five producers): Jean-Marie Fourrier, Noël and Jean-Claude Ramonet, Frédéric Mugnier, Robert Chevillon and the magician of Morgon Jean Foillard. How cool is that when the man who has done more to popularize Châteauneuf-du-Pape in SA than anyone else, buys Pinot Noir for himself.
For this is the sphinx’s last and darkest secret. Burgundy is best.