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Tasting notes from South Africa

text and photographs © 2010 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on South Africa 2010.


There's a very suave and sophisticated feel about the Morgenster experience, with its olive oil tastings and classical music playing. But then its owner is Giulio Bertrand from Piedmont, and one of its Directors and consultant is Pierre Lurton of Cheval Blanc, so perhaps that should come as no surprise.

Pierre Lurton comes each year for the blending, and samples are sent back and forward throughout the process, but from day to day winemaker Henry Kotze (right) is in charge, worked previously at Vergelegen from 1999 to 2001. I stopped by the stunning manor house in the grounds in which Mr Bertrand lives, and he told me how he had bought the manor as a home originally, but then decided to plant olives and vines.

Around 25 hectares of vines are now planted, comprising Bordeaux varieties plus Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Many varieties of olive were imported from Italy too. As we walk through the vineyards, Henry tells me that fighting Leaf-roll virus continues to be a major battle: the disease is transferred by insects, blown in the wind, and carried from farm to farm on people's shoes. The rocky, weathered Shale soils found on the farm are free-draining and suitable for the big red varieties grown, and the simple but immaculate cellar bristles with stainless steel and high-quality French oak barrels.

the wines

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Italian Collection Caruso Rosé 2009
90% Sangiovese, with Bordeaux varietals. Delicately herbal, lightly raspberry aromas. Sweet, stewed red fruits and tea notes, and a lovely, light, sweet cherry and berry fruit. Nice soft tannins and an elegant, dry finish with lemony acidity playing against the sweetness. 87/100. 65R at cellar door.

Italian Collection Tosca 2006
A blend of 60% Sangiovese, with 20% each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Smoky, tobacco leaf note. Lots of fragrant cedar and Sandalwood and a soft, plumy fruit quality. Touch of vanilla and cherry fruit. The palate is super sweet and ripe on the palate. Plush, soft berry fruits flood the mouth. There is quite high acidity giving this an edge, and then the smokiness of the wood comes through adding toast and spice, maybe feeling just a touch hot in the finish knocking off a point or two. 90/100. 220R cellar door.

Lourens River Valley 2005
A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a smidgeon of Petit Verdot. 15 months in one thirds of new, 1 and 2 year old French 300 litre barrels. Very plush, very ripe and fruity, with creamy berries and ripe red plum. Background of cedar and spice. On the palate lots of finesse, with silky red and black fruit, and some tobacco, really quite grippy tannins. 91/100. 125R

Morgenster 205
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. 75% new French oak in 300l barrels for 15 months. Smoky, earthy, very Claret-like. With a glossy, luscious red fruit quality. Beautifully smooth and luscious palate - very sweet fruit, with fantastic purity and density, still focused on the red fruit spectrum, the Sandalwood and creamy spices and silky but firm tannins coming through. Lovely finish, carrying the 14.5% very easily. 93/100. 330R

Lourens River Valley 2003
70% Merlot with Cabernets Sauvignon and franc. Very fudge-like, soft and smoky nose, with a sheen of pencil shaving over elegant black fruit. Particularly silky red fruit, with a real sweetness to the mid-palate fruit, with ripe tannins and tasting very youthful. It has fine balance, with good acidity and soft tannins melding with the structured but sweet and silky fruit. 92/100.

Morgenster 2003
Thirds of the three Bordeaux grapes. Delightful nose, filled with sweet, rich berries and that silky overlay of cedar and fragrant cedarwood spice. The palate has more weight than the 2005 at this stage, with a real creaminess, but that same sweet, pure, focused red berry fruit marrying to a bit of cassis decisiveness. Lovely tannins here, very polished and chocolaty. Fine balance, and at 13.5% alcohol naturally better balanced. 94/100.

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