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Part 6 of the Stellenbosch Series: The Wines of DeMorgenzon

The View from DeMorgenzonThis is the sixth, and sadly last for the near future, installment in our series on the wines of Stellenbosch, South Africa.  Here we’ll take a look at something a bit different, and by that we mean a place which is part winery, part botanical garden, part philanthropic institution and likely a sublimely therapeutic estate.  This is where the vines find room where available between the gardens, and music is played for the benefit of all the plants round the clock.  That is correct, the vines are serenaded continuously.  This is DeMorgenzon.

DeMorgenzon is Dutch for “the morning sun,” a fitting name for this boutique property high on the Stellenboschkloof, which is the first to be touched by the rising sun’s rays. DeMorgenzon’s high altitude vineyards command sweeping views of the Stellenbosch area. Embracing the philosophy that a biodiverse and ecologically sensitive environment produces infinitely better grapes, proprietors Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum have established DeMorgenzon as a 91 hectare garden interspersed with 55 hectares of carefully tended vineyards, where abundant wildflowers flourish between the vines. The vineyards are currently farmed naturally, and the estate is in the process of converting to organic farming.

DeMorgenzon’s position relative to Stellenbosch is shown below.

Demorgenzon Picture

All wine estates in the Western Cape are beautiful and all have unique terroir. However, DeMorgenzon may be the most extraordinary of them all. The slopes rise from about 200 meters to nearly 400 meteres above sea level and their vistas embrace Cape Town, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Cape Hangklip, the Hottentots Holland mountains, Helderberg and Simonsberg with the ocean as a backdrop. One could call these ‘mountain vineyards’, but they prefer them to be known as ‘garden vineyards’. In Spring specially chosen wildflowers flourish between the vines. They have no doubt that a biodiverse and ecologically sensitive environment produces infinitely better grapes and the beauty of their gardens is represented in every bottle of the wine.

The farm is a member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, a ground-breaking partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector that aims to preserve the biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom. Approximately 10% of the estate has been set aside for restoration to native South African flora.

terrior_header‘Repetition and variation’ is fundamental to DeMorgenzon. They pipe Baroque music through the vineyards 24/7 so even musical forms of ‘repetition and variation’ literally echo across the farm.  Does this have any scientific foundation?  A little research shows the answer may be yes.  Studies have been done over the years, and in 2007 a rather definitive statement came out of a South Korean study that rice plants had grown quicker when they were exposed to classical music.  It’s intriguing to be sure, and one wonders if the music makes the plants “happy” or whether its simply something to do with energy and vibration.  We don’t have any answers, but the people at DeMorgenzon believe in this.

DeMorgenzon has gained acclaim for their flagship old vines Chenin Blanc. The winery also produces a value range, called DMZ, where the overarching objective is to over-deliver on quality for price. Some of the fruit for the DMZ label is estate grown, while some is sourced from carefully selected sites.

While the owners of this farm are certainly multi-faceted and involved in different interests, at DeMorgenzon they maintain a gardens_headercommittment to excellence and focus on crafting wines which express their unique terroir and fruit within a classic structure – they believe that the finest South African wines combine New World-style fruit with Old World-style elegance. This seems to be a consistent thread among the Stellenbosch farms we have researched.

Some fast facts on the farm:

ESTABLISHED: 2003

OWNERS: Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum

WINEMAKER: Carl van de Merwe, who joined DeMorgenzon in 2010 after eight years at renowned estate Quoin Rock.

LOCATION: South-facing slopes of the Stellenbosch Hills, at altitudes of 655 to

1,312 feet above sea level

SOILS: Decomposed granite (Oakleaf and Tukulu)

SIZE OF ESTATE: 225 acres, 136 of which are planted to vines

THE NAME: DeMorgenzon is Dutch for “the morning sun.” The

name reflects the fact that the estate is the first part of the

Stellenboschkloof to be touched by the rays of the rising sun each day.

WINES IMPORTED:

Chenin Blanc, Maestro White,

Maestro Red, DMZ Sauvignon

Blanc, DMZ Chardonnay, DMZ

Cabernet Rosé, DMZ Syrah

The Wines:

IMG_1062

Once again four is the magic number, as in how many different wines we had available to open and evaluate.  There are two whites and two reds.  As was the case with the other South African farms we have reviewed, while distributed in Rhode Island you’ll once again have to search around to find them.  DeMorgenzon is also distributed in the US by Cape Classics, and you can check out their website here: http://www.capeclassics.com/.  They have a wide portfolio of South African wines.

Here are our tasting notes on the wines.

2013 DeMorgenzon DMZ Chardonnay DMZ is DeMorgenzon’s value label, where they are really aiming at a great quality to price ratio.  The fruit fort his Chardonnay is sourced from the Western Cape, with contributions from Stellenbosch, DurbanvilleIMG_1063 and Elgin.  The grapes are all handpicked, and each vineyard was fermented separately.  The wine was aged on the lees.  After four months the parcels were blended and then aged an additional three months prior to bottling.  Here’s what we thought:

This wine is light straw colored in the glass.  It’s very fruity, with peach, apple and some citrus notes.  The finish is very clean and the wine is exceptionally balanced with nice acidity.  It’s not the most complex wine in the world, and is unlikely to start an academic discussion on the wine’s characteristics, but it really is a beautifully balanced and great drinking wine.  This is one where the word delicious suffices.  Yummy comes  to mind as well.  If they were looking to create an excellent wine at a reasonable price they succeeded.  $17.99 suggested retail.  Value list wine as well.

2013 Demorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc –  this is the white they are known for, and it has garnered impressive scores in the major wine publications.  It comes from low yielding 42 year old vines, recently converted from bush to trellis systems.  There IMG_1065were small amounts of botrytis, or the “noble rot” which Sauternes is so famous for.  This was included in the harvest.  Four different passes were made during picking.  The wine was fermented in French oak (25% new barrels) and aged on its lees for 11 months.  What resulted?

This is light straw colored.  We found it to be quite complex, with great aromas of pear and orange, then honey joining in on the palate.  Cheri described it as delicate and substantial, all at the same time, and declared it one of her favorite whites ever.  This is very complex, very different and carries you through an amazing finish.  Quite unlike anything we’ve had before.  Suggested retail of $34.99.  Pretty spectacular white wine here, and another example of why we love Chenin Blanc.

2012 DeMorgenzon DMZ Syrahhere’s a red from their value line, this one is 100% Syrah.  A hot and dry spell during ripening season resulted in concentrated flavors.  This was fermented in stainless, and then spent 12 months in a combination of IMG_1064French oak barrels, large 3000 liter oak casks and cement tanks.  Here are our notes:

This is pretty classic Syrah, with dark plum fruits and meaty tones throughout.  The spice is there as a nuance, it’s not dominant.  On the palate some berry fruit comes through clearly as well.  It’s just a smidge under full bodied.  This is another smooth and pleasing wine, which seems like what the DMZ range is all about.  Suggested retail of $17.99.

2011 DeMorgenzon Maestro Red this is a blend of 41% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc.  The alcohol checks in at 14.5%, so it’s big.  The vineyards supplying this fruit are relatively young, in the 6-8 year range.  Each of the varietals is managed differently in the vineyard to optimize the final result.  IMG_1066Each variety is fermented separately in stainless.  After fermentation it spent about 2-3 weeks macerating, and then was pressed.  Most of this wine is from the free run juice.  Our thoughts:

This wine is dark purple/red.  A rich nose presents blackberry and spice.  The palate is coated in deep flavors dominated by berry with some tobacco hints.  The tannins are quite firm, but very approachable.  It finished with excellent length, and is just another very well made and delicious wine.  A quality Bordeaux style blend, it is a steal at a suggested retail of $24.99  This is Value List material.

DeMorgenzon is an interesting farm.  With everything going on, and the overall philosophies in play really engaging life on a larger scale, it’s clear to see they are still very focused when it comes to the wines.  They are all excellent, and represent some great value drinking.  Maybe it’s the Baroque.  Who can say?

This sadly brings us to the end of the current Stellenbosch series.  What have we learned?  We’ve learned that this area needs to be in the discussion when talking about quality wines in today’s wine world.  We’ve learned you can get some pretty incredible values from Stellenbosch.  We’ve learned they take this very seriously, and we expect nothing but great things in the future.

Considering we’ve only covered six of the more than 150 farms in the Stellenbosch area, and that this is only one piece of a much larger national wine industry, there is much more to discover.  The rest of the wine world beckons however.  We’ll do a summary of this series and a list of our favorite wines to buy from these six farms soon.  They are worth looking for.

You can go right back to the beginning of the Stellenbosch series by clicking here.  To go to the previous review on Glenelly Estate click here.

A votre sante!

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