The Perdeberg lies between Wellington and Riebeeck Kasteel, named after the zebras that used to roam here. Many of the vineyards are now of great age (in the Cape that’s 50+ years) because the small mixed agriculture farmers planted white varieties for distillation rebates and it so happened that these farmers never pulled these old vines out – while the rest of the Cape’s vineyards were rapidly replanted in the commercialisation that began in the 1990s. The combination of rare old vine stock and the Perdeberg’s naturally granitic soils has resulted in an area of undeniable excitement for a new wave of winemakers.
Leading the new wave with confident energy and now world-famous wines is Eben Sadie, who makes his Palladius white blend solely from Perdeberg grapes. A good portion of his red blend, Columella (the 2005 was the highest rated South Africa wine ever in US Wine Spectator magazine), also comes from these slopes. For Sadie, a good wine is assessed by its structure, not its obvious fruit. The Perdeberg vines, with their age, give him this structure in spades, and their granitic composition preserves the natural acidity of the grape – and natural acidity is far superior to added acidity for a wine’s balance.
The Palladius 2006 comes across as a beguilingly soft wine, but its lingering persistence and mineral heart give you an idea of what role provenance can play in making individualistic wine. It’s a solid wine without being at all hard, and its consistency in the palate is fantastic. Difficult to find, expect to pay around R349 in fine wine shops. If Palladius is unavailable, get hold of some of his Sequillo 2006 white (R165). Again a white blend from the same soils, this time lower on the slopes, the result is a more accessible style of wine.
Other wines to seek out are the Lammershoek Roulette 2005, a blend of Shiraz, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier that packs a sophisticated punch and the Black Rock White 2006. The latter is made from old vines; it’s an intense blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and a little Viognier. On the reds, the Scali Syrah 2005 is herbal and lithe and even though it carries the structure of the area, this wine proves that Shiraz does not have to be fruit soup. Vondeling Baldrick Shiraz 2007 is a lightly wooded wine with an exuberantly spicy palate that’s fresh and delicious. If famous brands are your game, the David Frost Par Excellence 2003 is a modern wine of great intensity, still very much in its youth. Contact (021) 869 8655 or visit www.voorpaardeberg.co.za for more on these wines.