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The wines of Morgenhof Estate, Simonsberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Morgenhof Wine Estate, Klapmuts Road, Stellenbosch, P O Box 365, 
Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa 
Tel: 27 21 889 5510 Fax: 27 21 889 5266
Website: http://www.morgenhof.co.za

The historic estate of Morgenhof was purchased by a French couple, Alain Huchon and Anne Cointreau-Huchon, in 1993. Interestingly, Anne Cointreau-Huchon is a member of the famous Cointreau family of Cognac, owners of Champagne Gosset. Normally, at this stage, most reviews of Morgenhof resort to the cliché of saying how French-influenced the wines are -- and there’s a degree of truth to this. But they are still distinctly South African, albeit in an elegant, classy style. New plantings have taken the total under vine at this estate to 85 ha (quite big, by any standards). Their Sauvignon is from newly planted French clones (from the Loire), and their Chenin Blanc is one of the new breed of serious, oaked interpretations of this grape. My overall impression is that these are top-notch, well made wines. I was especially impressed by the varietal wines, and in particular the Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet. While the Première selection is the estate’s flagship, I prefer the less expensive (but no less classy) varietal wines which haven’t had as much new oak lavished upon them. UK retail prices (and availability, where known) are given in brackets after each note.

(for a more recent review of Morgenhof's wines [Feb 2005] click here)

2001 Sauvignon Chenin Blanc
Lovely, fresh intense nose with a grassy/herby edge. With a rich, fruity, well-balanced palate this is modern but good. Very good+ (£6.49 Handford)

2001 Chenin Blanc
For a Chenin, this shows impressive concentration and depth of flavour. Attractive, herb-edged fruit on the nose leads to a full textured palate with what appears to be some oak-derived complexity. Very good+ (£7.49 Handford)

Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Delicious stuff, and one of the best South African expressions of this grape I’ve encountered. The pungent, grassy nose has a herby edge, with some gooseberry character. There’s a good concentration of clean grassy fruit on the palate. Very good/excellent (£7.50)

Chardonnay 1999
A deep yellow/gold colour, this has an intense toasty oak nose with a creamy nuttiness to it. The palate is lush and integrated, with rich herby fruit combining well with vanillin oak. Very good/excellent (£8)

Pinotage 1999
Deep red/black colour. Intense, varietally true nose shows cheesy, animal-edged berry fruit. The palate is rich, chunky, savoury and animal-like. Great concentration; a superb Pinotage, but still struggles a bit with some of the limitations of this grape. Very good+ (£9.99 Handford)

Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
There’s a lovely earthy, minerally edge to the blackcurrant fruit on the nose. The concentrated palate displays rich, savoury blackcurrant fruit with a nice, leafy, mineral edge. Very good/excellent (£11.99)

Merlot 1999
Very deep coloured, with a stunning nose of savoury, leafy fruit showing a mineralic, cedar-like edge. The concentrated herby palate is nicely savoury. Very good/excellent (£11.99 Handford; £10.99 Noel Young)

Première Selection 1995
A deep colour, this shows a complex nose with herby, leafy complexity to the fruit: Claret-like and restrained. The palate displays sweet berry fruit and spicy complexity. Very good/excellent

Première Selection 1996
A disappointing effort, albeit from a difficult vintage. The nose is quite attractive, with a smoky, cedary edge to the berry fruit, but the palate is quite lean and austere, with high acidity. Very good

Première Selection 1997
There’s a smoky, roasted character on the nose, which shows toasty oak and berry fruit. The palate tight, tannic and quite oaky. This structured wine shows good concentration, but needs to develop some charm. Very good+ (£12.99 Handford)

Première Selection 1998
A very concentrated deep red/black colour. There’s roasted, toasty oak on the tight-knit nose, together with some ripe berry fruit. There’s some lushness to the fruit on the still-tannic palate. This is a big wine; it will be interesting to see how it evolves. Very good+

Wines tasted courtesy of McKinley Vinters (UK agents), 14 Kennington Road, London SE1 7BL (info@mckinleyvintners.co.uk)

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