Greg Sherwood MW: Getting nostalgic about Morgenhof

By , 17 April 2024



Spring has finally sprung in the UK, the sun is shining and the mercury in the thermometer is starting to tilt towards 19°C or 20°C. Of course, the doomsayers are already pointing to the warmest March on record (it was actually neither warm nor dry, but rather grey and very damp… like always!) while the man in the street looks up at the skies and wonders what the weather statisticians have been smoking. I instead preferred to take in a lovely long walk in the afternoon along the Thames footpath into Richmond-upon-Thames for a spot of lunch and a quick pint along the river. But as luck would have it, I bumped into wine buyer and my good pal Gareth Birchley, otherwise known as the Mayor of Richmond, and along with his personal doctor / private client, Dr Akash, we enjoyed a wonderfully thirst quenching pint of Neck Oil IPA together before I had to head home with my nagging thirteen year old son, who could quite wisely see that this was indeed one of those “let’s just have one” kind of Friday afternoons that could very easily have turning into six or seven pints under the balmy blue afternoon skies.

As is de rigeur at the moment for all wine trade chatter, we discussed the abysmal state of the UK wine market and the complete stagnation of the fine wine category as a whole just as we are entering the en-primeur 2023 window, which normally would be one of the most buoyant and stimulating times of the year for traditional wine merchants. As one of the ex-big hitters of Bordeaux Index and Berry Brothers and Rudd, Gareth now trades uber-fine wines as one half of Burns & German Vintners, a leading private client merchant based in Chelsea, and he shared some interesting insights on the current stagnation we are witnessing in the broader market. There are of course many ways to skin a cat but what we all did agree on was that we were perhaps seeing a final generation of wealthy 30-somethings indulge in the art of curated tasting, collecting and consuming some of the greatest wines in the world.

A similar thread on X (Twitter) was also doing the rounds earlier in the day with one ex-wine buyer-turned-wine writer, Jason Millar, commenting on a Robert Joseph post, that “… there is way too much self-flagellation in the trade. Gen Z are simply poor compared to X and Boomers. We are all selling an ever-more premiumised product to a generation with less security and less cash. What did we think would happen!” Very well summarised I would say particularly for pulling together the problematic intergenerational progression of where the fine wine market currently is.

Of course, one pint on a sunny day always tastes like a second, so seeing as I was deprived of this simple pleasure, I decided to pull a nice bottle of red out of the cellar to enjoy with my Friday supper. A delicious bottle of Morgenhof Estate Red Blend 2004 surfaced from one of my boxes and before any doubts could be cast, the cork was pulled. What an absolute stunner! Now, we all know that 2004 was one of the most incredible years in Cape wineland vintages, especially for Stellenbosch, after all, who could forget the memorable Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from Abrie Beeslar that bowled the judges over some years later on release and claimed its rightful place as the Platter’s Red Wine of the Year? Or indeed, a vintage that launched a proverbial thousand fine wine ships including the maiden MR de Compostella 2004 from Bruwer Raats and Mzokhona Mvemve, a wine brand now firmly established twenty years later as one of South Africa’s very finest Cape Bordeaux Blends.

Morgenhof has a special place in my heart for a number of reasons as it not only played such an influential role in my own personal wine development over the years but also served as the backdrop for my brother’s wedding in 2003. Having moved back to the UK in early 2000, I was a big client of Gosset Champagne and its previous owner, Anne Cointreau, was now making headlines down in the Cape with her acquisition of this Stellenbosch property. In the early noughties, I recall literally buying up the entire UK allocation of the Morgenhof Premiere Selection 1995 as this wine was previously called. A veritable fine wine gem crafted by the maestro himself, Jean Daneel, this wine still stands as one of the most iconic Cape Bordeaux Blends to have been produced in the Cape (of course given a run for its money by the Cordoba Crescendo 1995 maiden release made by Chris Keet.)

Jean-Daneel later made way for Rianie Strydom, his assistant at the time, when he departed to pursue Jean Daneel Signature Wines, and she continued there for several years before moving on to other projects like Haskell and eventually her own Strydom Wines. Sipping on this deliciously youthful red brings back memories of my brother’s wonderful wedding at Morgenhof flooding back. Taking place in the year before this wine was vinified, the property’s wines became a perennial house favourite of his, especially the fantastically good value Malbec-Merlot red blend.

But like all premium Stellenbosch sites, this prime Simonsberg property possessed, or should I say possesses, some of the finest red wine terroir in the entire Cape peninsula, and this classy rich, textured red made from 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 6% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot seems to be tasting as youthful as the day it was bottled. Full and ripe on the palate, this classic red is loaded with black berries, black cherries, dark chocolate and sweet cherry tobacco, hints of graphite and granitic minerality before a soft, fleshy, textured finish with the most seductively sweet, supple tannins. Still black, opaque and impenetrable, this is undoubtedly a wine that is close to its peak of maturity, but due to the lack of significant tertiary aromas and flavours, looks set to develop handsomely, with benefit, for another 10-plus years easily.

The Morgenhof wine estate was sold in 2021 for the relatively meagre sum of R52 million rand… apparently low on account of the replanting and vineyard work that would be required to elevate this estate back up to the quality heights of its original glory days. According to, “buyers from 13 countries registered for the final property auction, including four bidders from the UK, 16 from elsewhere in Europe and others from China and India. Five bids were finally received for the property, starting at R40m. Morgenhof Estate covers some 200ha on the Simonsberg and includes two manor houses, a wedding chapel, a conference centre and around 75ha of vineyards. The seller was Anne Cointreau of the famous Champagne and Cognac family – her great-grandfather Adolphe Cointreau created the orange liqueur that bears the family name. Cointreau, who bought the farm in 1993, is in her 70s and retiring to France. Morgenhof Estate enjoyed great success in the late 1990s and early 2000s with first Jean Daneel as winemaker and then Rianie Strydom.”

As I sip the last glass of a truly magnificent bottle of red, certainly in the realms of 95+ or 96 points on the GSMW scale, I can’t help but think of all the “poor” Gen Zs that might never get to experience the joy of buying a historic and storied red wine, ageing it, and getting the opportunity to pull it out of one’s own cellar 20 years later to experience its sublime vivacity, complexity and unadulterated joy. This is not simply a matter of affordability – this bottle was very affordable at the time, as are most top contemporary Cape Bordeaux Blends and Cabernet Sauvignons. The reason will be the wider wine trade’s lack of effort to engage a new generation of wine drinkers, seducing them with genuinely colourful stories of international history, geography and exploration. Wine is not just a beverage, it’s an intricate part of our social fabric.

  • Greg Sherwood was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and as the son of a career diplomat, spent his first 21 years traveling the globe with his parents. With a Business Management and Marketing degree from Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Sherwood began his working career as a commodity trader. In 2000, he decided to make more of a long-held interest in wine taking a position at Handford Wines in South Kensington, London, working his way up to the position of Senior Wine Buyer. Earlier this year, he moved across to South African specialist merchant Museum Wines to become the Fine Wine Director. He qualified as a Master of Wine in 2007.


1 comment(s)

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    Nicholas | 18 April 2024

    I too, was married on this fine estate in 1997. Sadly, you can now rent quad bikes, have pizza and watch your kids play on the jumping castle while you eat in what’s left of the previous outdoor dining area 😞
    A shadow of its former self. The website makes it look like a stunning place. It.*WAS* that 30 years ago.
    Maybe their wines have held 🤔

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