I reiterate my claim that no country, no wine region has been as dynamic, progressive or indeed, as exciting as South Africa. It is almost unrecognisable compared to a decade ago […] The question is, despite setbacks and obstacles, how far can South Africa go? – Neal Martin, Vinous Media (August 2018).
While Chenin Blanc is the most planted variety in South Africa, it still too often accounts for high volume, commercial production wines lacking individuality or character. Consequently, it is also the variety that is being pulled up at the fastest rate. Nevertheless, the quality potential is high as long as the site is appropriate. It is becoming clear that higher altitude vineyards in finer-textured soils yield fruit that, in deft hands, can result in scintillating quality. Wendy and Hylton Applebaum purchased the DeMorgenzon estate in 2003, fully appreciating the diverse terroirs. They saw potential in the existing Chenin Blanc plantings, which dated from 1972, and – perhaps unusually for the time – were situated at altitudes of 250-300 metres above sea level. We recently tasted the 2017 DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc (offered here at £120 per 6 bottle case in bond) which is testament to the quality which can be achieved.
By way of background, DeMorgenzon is based in Stellenbosch and was originally part of the Uiterwyk Estate – one of the oldest estates on the Cape dating back to 1679. The name ‘DeMorgenzon’ means ‘the morning sun’ and is so named as it is the first section of the Stellenboschkloof Valley to benefit from the sun’s rays given its altitude (200 to 400 metres above sea level) and aspect. This impressive estate, extending over 55 hectares, is headed by winemaker Carl van der Merwe who joined the Applebaums in 2010. Carl says his philosophy is ‘to interfere as little as possible and as much as necessary’ and the wines he creates at DeMorgenzon are certainly a reflection of the diverse terroirs and his skill.
Although the 2017 vintage was hot and dry, evening temperatures were much cooler than the norm. The resultant wines have attractive weight and mouthfeel yet with great structure and freshness. Fruit is handpicked in the cool early morning and done so in multiple passes to achieve optimum ripeness. Fermentation takes place in French oak (of which 20% is new) and about 20% of the volume completes malolactic fermentation. This is the second vintage in which a portion of the wine has undergone malolactic fermentation, thereby adding to the creamy, velvety texture of the ripe 2017 vintage.
We are not the only ones have recognised the quality of the 2017 vintage; to date it has received 95 points from Tim Atkin MW in his 2018 South Africa Report, 93 points from Neil Martins of Vinous, and was awarded a Decanter gold medal – to name just a few plaudits.
2017 DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc
£120 per 6 bottle case in bond
Neal Martin, Vinous
The 2017 Reserve Chenin Blanc comes from vines planted in 1972, whole-bunch-pressed with around 18% new oak. It has a classy, sophisticated bouquet of yellow plum, jasmine, hints of crushed stone and subtle lemon thyme scents. The palate is well balanced with crisp acidity, and the prudent use of oak allows the grape variety to flourish. Hints of dried pineapple and passion fruit mixed with mirabelle lead to a poised, animated finish. Superb. Drink 2019-2030
Please let us know at your earliest convenience of your interest.