Simply put, I am huge fan of both the Reserve wines from DeMorgenzon, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. They rank among the best value whites I taste each year and show an unerring consistency, vintage in, vintage out. And the newly released 2019 Reserve Chardonnay, offered here for the first time, represents a superb vintage for the estate and I don’t think I would be alone in terming it an absolute bargain.
Having been so impressed by a handful of New World Chardonnays, I start to wonder if my palate has changed. Perhaps it has a touch, but I find far greater purity and poise in a select number of Chardonnnays from leading estates than I did 5-10 years ago. And over the same time period, I find a gradual lessening of tension and energy in a number of Bourgogne Blanc and entry level white Burgundy than I previously bought. And let’s face it, very few can compete at £130 per 6 bottle case in bond – that’s just a market reality. There is an insatiable demand for drinking white Burgundy these days, but it is interesting to note, with some exceptions, that I am finding greater interest and value elsewhere.
A little background for you…
The DeMorgenzon estate 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 lies in 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 owned by the Applebaum family who recently employed a new winemaker, Alastair Rimmer (former Cellar Master at Kleine Salze), who shares their commitment to subtle and well attuned winemaking, focusing on purity and clearly expressed fruit.
The fruit for the Reserve Chardonnay comes from vines planted on granite soils mid-way up the valley slopes, where sea breezes provide a cooling influence easing the warm summer temperatures. 2019 was a cooler vintage for the Cape than the last few hot and dry years, though there were latent stress effects on the vines from a few years of drought, resulting in low yields of concentrated grapes. Daytime and particularly night-time temperatures were below average, which meant the fruit retained its acidity and more subtle aromatics. Grapes were hand-picked and whole bunch pressed before fermentation in French oak barrels (30% new oak), after which the wine was then aged on its lees for 10 months to add complexity and a richness of texture prior to bottling. The result is a simply stunning Chardonnay, which offers complexity and length in abundance, easily capable of ageing 10 years…this really is another absolute knock-out from one of the finest white wine producers in the Western Cape. Perhaps there are other South African Chardonnay that might beat this for sheer quality, but I doubt they will share the same price point!
The 2019 Reserve Chardonnay isn’t short of favourable reviews - you will find a couple of these below, along with my own note. However, it is interesting to compare Tim Atkin’s and Neal Martin’s words as, when I read them, they seem to be tasting a different wine! ‘Taut and linear’ doesn’t often go with ‘plush, glossy, intensely fruity’. However, don’t fret; when faced with such conflicting views, the safest thing to do is follow the most recent note from the person who tasted it last Thursday (me)!