The flagship red 2009 from Morgenster in Somerset West, released on Friday, is easily the best wine this property has made for some time. This is partly a product of 2009 having been such a good vintage but the wine also sees Cabernet Sauvignon is the ascendancy for the first time since 2003, the blend being 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot and 14% Cabernet Franc.
While 2003 was dominated by the Cabs (roughly equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc making up 70% of the wine), the 2004 contained 69% Merlot, the 2005 85% Merlot, the 2006 a third each of Merlot, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc and the 2008 36% Merlot, the major proportion of the blend (no 2007). Prior to the 2003, the maiden 2000 was 51% Cabernet Franc and 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, while the 2001 saw Merlot to the fore at 45% (no 2002).
Clearly, the Morgenster brains trust led by Cheval Blanc’s Pierre Lurton in a consultative role have tended to favour Merlot and you have to conclude that this was done in an effort to replicate the plushness of Right Bank Bordeaux. Ironically, it’s when Left Bank Cab is allowed more of a role that I think Morgenster makes its best wines.
The 2009 spent 18 months in French oak, 60% new. It shows dark fruit, violets and attractive oak notes on the nose. The palate has excellent fruit weight, fresh acidity and firm but fine tannins. It’s full but balanced, the oak very well judged. Score: 17.5/20 – just short of a perfect 18 because although it is exquisitely crafted it remains somehow unaffecting. Price: R290/bottle.
The Lourens River Valley 2009 meanwhile sees Merlot again given centre stage (the blend being 62% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon) and is less successful. It displays that characteristic peculiar to too many South African reds of showing very ripe fruit and a green note simultaneously. On its own, it appeared particularly unconvincing but drank better with lunch. Score: a lucky 16/20.
The day also saw the launch of the maiden Morgenster White 2011, a blend of 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillion, grapes from neighbouring farms and the wine spending 8 months in French oak, 30% new. It’s appealing enough but not exactly riveting. There’s green melon, a hint of herbal character and vanilla when it comes to aromas and flavours. It’s medium bodied almost to a fault, the oak sits a little part, and there’s a touch of bitterness on the finish. Work in progress. Score: 15.5/20.