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Morgenster 2006: A step closer to Guilio Bertrand’s dream

Guilio Bertand and Pierre Lurton enjoy a glass of Morgenster Rose at the Field House during the Morgenster 2006 launch

When Henry Kotze said he had big shoes to fill at Morgenster, he wasn’t kidding. It was the occasion of the annual launch of the next vintage of the boutique Helderberg estate’s Lourens River Valley and flagship Morgenster Bordeaux style blends, and Henry had the daunting task of introducing the 2006 vintage made by his predecessor, Marius Lategan, who moved to La Bri in Franschhoek when Henry took over as cellar master late last year.

Presided over as usual by estate owner Guilio Bertrand, the annual bash at the Morgenster Estate commenced in the tasting room, with a foreword by consultant winemaker Pierre Lurton, who made the annual pilgrimage from Bordeaux to be part of the unveiling of what many people consider to be one of the finest Bordeaux style blends in the country.

Pierre, in his opening remarks, noted that once more the 2006 wines had gone where the fruit had driven them, a recipe that has been followed with some considerable success over the years. He noted that the ’06 vintage had been a pleasant surprise: one of those rare vintages which because of great fruit expression is imminently drinkable now, but because of the underlying structure and complexity, will also age well.

In introducing the wines, Henry noted that 2006 had been a difficult harvest, and not only because of the fluky weather conditions. Who will ever forget the tenuous electricity supply the country and particularly the Western Cape experienced at a critical time during the harvest?

The Lourens River Valley (LRV) was first up, deep garnet in colour with dense edges. It’s all about earthy cassis notes on the nose, with dusty emerging red berry fruit.

Balancing acidity on palate entry morphs into brisk fruit in the mid-palate, supported by soft and complex tannins, with a long fruity finish, the fruit being more red than black, concluding with a slightly spicy note.

The focus is on fruit with a hint of spice, underpinned by elegant complexity, and a broad mouthfeel.

The blend is 47% Merlot, (the brighter redder fruit), 32% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot (the source of the spicy note) appearing for the second time in the LRV, and the wine spent 15 months in new French oak. Excellent value at R130 a bottle at the cellar door.

Moving on to the flagship Morgenster blend, it is deep garnet in colour, clear with dense edges.

Spicy voluptuous cassis assails the nose underpinned by distinct blackberry undertones, with a subtle piquant almost meaty note evident.

The palate opens with prominent black berry fruit, and balanced acidity. The fruit brightens in mid-palate supported by complex tannins with ever such a slight nip but they are neither blocky nor square (the wine had been decanted an hour and a half beforehand and was a touch tight, needing a bit more time to open up). The finish is long and subtly fruity.

The blend is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 32% Merlot and it spent 15 months in 50% new and 50% second and third fill French oak. The blending focus was on aging potential and the wine was in bottle for 30 months before release. Cellar door price is R290 a bottle.

Henry commented that in his view, this is a benchmark vintage, one of the best to come out of Morgenster in six years. Guilio Betrand commented that once more, the focus was on producing a wine that would age well, and that would have fruit intensity. That comment recalled a fascinating interview I had with Guilio Betrand and Pierre Lurton the day before the launch of the 2004 vintages, way back in 2008. He made the very specific point that it was his intention to make the very best Bordeaux style blend in the country, and that he would be ruthless in his selection of varietals and clones in that quest. “If I can’t find a clone that will produce the type of fruit I want in a particular vineyard block, I would rather pull out the vines and grow nothing there, and make less wine,” he said. Such is the magnitude of his resolve.

I’ve followed the blend since the 1999 vintage, and in my view, Henry is right. This is without doubt the finest Morgenster blend that I have tasted. Elegant complexity wrapped up in a seamless, integrated whole. Balanced poise with no loose edges or jarring notes, a tribute to the Morgenster team, in its pursuit of Guilio Betrand’s vision.

  1. June 17, 2010 at 9:26 am

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