Columella, Liberatus in Castro Bonae Spei, Vindemia 2001, red wine from South Africa
I don’t know very much about South African wines. Once in a while, my friend Grant Hill – who is the most generous wine lover I know – and I spend an evening together, tasting wines and talking about the world! He always opens some rare wine that I haven’t tried before, sometimes I can even surprise him with a wine he doesn’t know.
Grant is from Australia and therefore much more open to wines from the so-called New World. He simply knows many more wines from there than I do. Maybe it’s also that he’s a bit older than I am, so he’s had the chance to taste more broadly.
Last time he came to visit, he brought a bottle of Columella, vintage 2001. Since he had some other very appealing wines with him, that you can see above at the picture Clos de La Coulée de Serrant, 1999. I stored this bottle and opened it later without giving it too much thought. Thoughtless in the sense that I did not make myself research the wine before I opened it.
I cannot say that I would have been more impressed if I had read about Columella before, but I certainly did do some reading after such an impressive tasting experience. To put it simply, this wine is very, very good. The color is almost black, a very deep dark red. You would expect a rather full body and heavy kind of Syrah, 16 years old, from South Africa. This wine – which is not a Syrah but a blend (like many French wines) – was just the opposite: even considering its strong body, it was very elegant. A very pleasant balance between the fruitiness of Syrah (and / or Grenache, Carignan and probably many others) and a unique lightness of tannins. There is some spice and only a minor oaky texture, just a wonderful and delicate equilibrium. I read that the 2001 vintage was affected by extreme dryness during the winter, so perhaps that has also exerted some influence on the remarkable taste of this wine. Usually you would expect some sweetness with this kind of wine, this one is not at all sweet – it is actually rather fresh and has a “colder” approach because of its unique minerality. Would I have thought that this wine is already 16 years old if I had seen the label? I don’t think so. The wine is perfect to drink now but I can imagine that it could easily age another ten years or so.
The wine in produced by a wine-making family named Sadie. You can find many articles about Eden Sadie, who not only runs the winery currently, but also seems to live it. Perhaps I can direct your attention briefly to the following link – one of the more informative ones without too much prose: http://www.broadbent.com/sadie-family/. I also read somewhere that Eden Sadie produce these wines biodynamically.
Their vineyard is located to the north of Capetown, in an area called Swartland. Sometime I really must go there. The homepage of the Sadies themselves is rather simple: http://www.thesadiefamily.com/. Since I took the picture above from another blogger I refer to him: https://richedwardsimagery.wordpress.com/tag/the-sadie-family/
By the way, the word Columella has many meanings. There is both a botanic (something with come with moss) and a zoological one (connected to ears). I wonder if the winemakers are making a reference to one of these meanings, or if they are actually honoring Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella, one of the most important Roman writers and chronologists of agriculture (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columella). I myself would not have thought up some connection between South African wine-making and the Roman empire – but this is one of the pleasant parts of writing about wine: there is always something new to learn.