Friday, August 29, 2014

DeMorgenzon: Harmonious Stellenbosch Wines

In May, I spent a few weeks in South Africa, surfing, tasting wine and watching wildlife. I had a great time visiting wineries around Walker Bay and Stellenbosch. The last wine stop on my trip was DeMorgenzon, located in the hilly western part of Stellenbosch.

We arrived at the beautiful winery grounds one afternoon and met up with Carl van der Merwe, the winemaker and general manager. He showed my wife and I around and poured some wines from his line-up. We had a great time tasting and talking and afterward he showed us around the winery, gardens and vineyards. DeMorgenzon is located on a sloping hill with a beautiful view of the ocean on a clear day. The name means morning sun, which this area of higher elevation gets plenty of. It’s a great place to walk around and the wines are consistently delicious.

This is actually the afternoon sun, but it's a beautiful place in any light.
As we were walking around the vineyard, I noticed speakers mounted on poles around the vineyards. They were playing calming classical music. Carl explained that these speakers treat the vines to classical music 24-7. Baroque music, to be specific. The music can be heard in the vineyards and throughout the cellar and barrel rooms. The idea is that this type of music has calming and positive effects on the life of the vines, resulting in a more harmonious wine. Carl said something about the mathematical precision and rhythm of this particular style being good for living things, but it was clear the music isn’t his idea.

I’m not fully sold on the notion of playing music to grapevines, but there are some studies that show DeMorgenzon might be onto something. (Grape Collective explored the subject of vines and music further in this interesting piece.)

Regardless of the Baroque music, the unique terroir and Carl’s winemaking result in some compelling wines. No Pinotage here, but DeMorgenzon’s portfolio is a great example of the wines of Stellenbosch.

2013 De Morgenzon Sauvignon Blanc DMZ - South Africa, Western Cape
Rich papaya on the nose, touched with lime and fresh honeysuckle. High acid, creamy, richly textured on the palate. Papaya, green apple and a very mild hint of grass. Combines freshness and minerality with some openness and fruit-forward gusto. A lot going on, but it’s balanced by lasting acid. (88 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Chardonnay DMZ - South Africa, Western Cape
Fresh and floral on the nose, with sea breeze and rich peaches. Very bright and attractive. On the palate, this wine is lively with kicking acid and lots of different fruit notes: green melon, lime, green apple. I also get honeysuckle, daisies and some sea salt. Creamy, nutty, but tangy. Fermented in a mix of oak and stainless steel. (87 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc DMZ - South Africa, Western Cape
Aromas of saline, honeysuckle, cantaloupe and oyster shell. Tingly acid, creamy body, with flavors of papaya, cantaloupe drizzled with lime and some waxy tones. Playful, fruit-forward, fermented in a mix of stainless steel and old oak barrels. (86 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc Reserve - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Loving the depth and complexity on the nose: saline, crushed rocks, mountain streams, clover, green tea, all of it accentuates the apricot and white peach fruit. Superb balance on the palate between richness and acid. Apricot, white peach, glazed pear, add in some nougat, honey, white tea and mineral notes. A gorgeous Chenin Blanc that could develop a lot more in the cellar. All barrel fermented (25% new) the fruit comes from 40+ year-old vines planted in granite soils.  This was my favorite Chenin Blanc of the entire trip. (91 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Maestro White - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Potpourri like crazy on the nose! Tons of white flowers, yellow wild flowers, lavender, some saline on top of lemon and green and yellow apples. Creamy body, with lots of melons, apricot and papaya. Notes of hazelnut, honey, hint of white cherry. Crisp, juicy, quite complex, capable of development over the next few years. A blend of 37% Chenin Blanc, 24% Chardonnay, 24% Roussanne and 15% Viognier. (90 points)

2012 De Morgenzon Syrah DMZ - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Dark purple color. Smells rich and jammy with dark fruit, spice and deep floral tones. Black currant and blackberry jam on the palate, this is firm but fleshy, with cedar, earth, smoke and a whole lot of black pepper. Let me say it again: this is a very peppery Syrah. If you like that, this is for you. Not a ton of complexity, but a solid Syrah. (86 points)

Maestro, get it? They really like
classical music at DeMorgenzon.
2011 De Morgenzon Maestro Red - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Deep aromatic complexity: dark, chilled fruit, eucalyptus, menthol, cedar and earth. Wonderful texture on the palate, elegant but firm. A complex fruit assortment glides across the palate: fleshy plums, currant jam, fig paste and cool blackberries. I get dark chocolate, vanilla, black pepper, eucalyptus and a note that reminds me of a dry, dusty road. Graphite and cedar linger long on the finish. Gorgeous now, but lay it down and be rewarded. A blend of 41% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc, aged 12 months in 25% new French oak. (91 points)

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