In the winter of 1988, I experienced what it was like to attend school in regulatory school uniform short pants. Just a few months before I had enrolled in what was then known as Sub A (Grade 1) at Dale College Boys Primary School. Wearing short pants during an Eastern Cape winter is extremely unpleasant especially when you are young enough to have a body fat percentage close to zero percent.
Approximately 1100 km away and occurring at the same time I was experiencing “frost burn” in my legs, a new vine cultivar was being introduced to Môreson Wines.
At the time, Môreson Wines had been planted to cultivars such as Steen (Chenin blanc), Sauvignon blanc, Colombard and SA Riesling. The oldest vineyard, sadly not around anymore was a 3.58 hectare vineyard of Chenin blanc planted in 1968. Most if not all of these vineyards were planted to supply the local Franschhoek wine cooperative with grapes as per our agreed quota.
During the winter of 1988, 2.42 hectares of prime soil location was being prepared for the arrival of the new Chardonnay CY 277 cuttings. Chardonnay was a relatively new wine grape cultivar in South Africa with the first certified plantings only taking place in the early 80’s.
The new Chardonnay vineyard being planted on Moreson that year was momentous for two reasons:
In 1998, Moreson had decided to become a private estate producer opting to plant Chardonnay for Cap Classique production.
In 2017, Moreson only grows Chardonnay on the estate opting to produce a variety of styles from a vast array of clones.
Whether we knew it or not, 1988 was the start of Moreson’s journey into Chardonnay production. The new vineyard was planted and named B7 designating Blois 7, Blois being the name of the subdivided section that comprises Moreson Wines.
For 25 years, this vineyard provided the base wine for the former Moreson Blanc de blancs and today the Moreson Solitaire Blanc de blancs. Up until 2014, B7 was the majority component of our Solitaire blend. The maturity of the vines produced grapes that were ideal for Cap Classique production displaying raw minerality (stony, steely, flint & chalk)
Sadly, the vineyard were infected with leaf roll virus and in all likelihood was infected with the virus at the time of planting. Clean and certified planting material was a misnomer in the early years and through time, the virus began to infect the vineyards. Since my arrival at Moreson Wines in 2007, we continued to produce base wine from B7. The effects of the virus had not taken its grip fully as yet and we were content with the quality of the final base product. As time progressed, we started noticing a gradual decline in the quality of the wines. Each year, the effect of this gradually increased. As a counter measure, we improved our pressing techniques by fractioning off small percentages of the Cuveé juice (first pressing) and kept this separate until it was time for blending.
By 2014, we had exhausted our pressing tactics and could not with a clear conscience continue to utilise B7 inside the Solitaire blend.
At Moreson Wines, we have a zero tolerance on compromising grape and wine quality. The 2014 vintage was the last vintage to have wine from B7 in the final blend. It was also the year that we started to introduce our new vineyard M03, planted in 2008 into the Solitaire blend.
Between 2015 and 2017, we reluctantly discussed the removal of B7. The vineyard was almost completely infected with virus and concerns of the virus spreading was a real issue.
This winter, exactly 30 years on we removed B7. It will be remembered as the vineyard which established our journey into Chardonnay.
The land which B7 was planted will lie fallow for the next two years. A new still wine clone of Chardonnay is currently being investigated for suitability in this area with planting commencing in winter of 2019, perhaps another significant milestone year for Moreson Wines.
Discovering the perfect tannin
By Clayton Reabow
During May, I embarked on what I consider the mecca of wine journeys to Burgundy, France. This has always been a long term dream of mine that has for some reason been delayed the last 7 years or so. I was accompanied by my good friend and Burgundy oenophile Chris Albrecht who also happens to be the Winemaker at Bouchard Finlayson.
Chomping at the bit and ready to taste Burgundy
After our compulsory croissant breakfast, we set off for our first appointment at Domaine Faiveley in Nuit St George. The domaine is a reasonably sized operation with ownership of 21 premiers cru and 10 grand crus parcels. We were hosted by the Winemaker, Julian Bordet who provided us with a seated and generous tasting of 9 of their wines, all from the 2015 vintage. The highlight of the tasting for me which surprised me considering I am such a wooded white wine fan was their Montagny 2015 which is a Chardonnay only comprising 10% oak (100% new) and the remaining 90% unwooded and matured in stainless steel. Tasting notes below:
Lemon and lime pithiness with sweet fruit undertone. Subtle aniseed and liquorice spice. The palate is extremely well balanced with perfectly balanced acidity. RP: 16€
And this is what kicked off my journey into understanding the perfect balance between oak and wine.
Winemaker, Julien Bordet with Chris confirming that we were in Burgundy
After some back and forth driving along the Cote d’Or we attended our second appointment for the day in Morey St Denis which I have to admit will be remembered as the highlight of our trip. Domaine Dujac is owned by the Seyess family with the vineyards and wines currently curated by the son, Jeremy Seyess. Jeremy met us in their underground barrel cellar and this is where I had my “tannin epiphany”
In total we tasted 9 Pinot Noirs of which 5 were all grand crus from sites situated in Vosne Romanee and Morey St Denis. To put things into perspective, they share a site with Domaine de la Romanee Conti, the world’s leading and most well-known Burgundy producer with a wine produced from a vineyard site known as Echezeaux in the Vosne Romanee.
My epiphany hit me in the face on wine no. 7, which I initially wrote off as “site syndrome” ( when you believe everything you taste is the best you have experienced until you get home and get let down when you taste the wine again). This was certainly not the case here as I had just enough in my glass for a 3rd helping (the Burgundians are generous). The wine was the Clos de La Roche 2015 and my tasting notes read as follows:
Very floral, spicy and savoury with a seamless tannin structure. The tannins feel as if they are encapsulated in silk or oil. The tannins coat the palate providing enduring balance and structure.
The wine that changed my life: Clos de La Roche 2015
After tasting and drinking Burgundy for so many years, I am embarrassed to say that I have never tasted a Burgundy with such a profile. As the tasting went on and more grand crus were opened I soon realized one simple observation. What separated premier crus to grand crus was this tannin profile which not only changed the way I appreciated wine, but the growing and making of it.
Chris and I in awe outside Domaine Dujac after our tasting. (We stood there for a while)
We did not believe anything was going to trump that visit until we arrived the following day outside the entrance to Domaine Leflaive in Puligny Montrachet. We were in fact lost and by pure chance arrived at the domaine after enquiring with reception where in fact the domaine might be. After confirming our arrival, we were met yet again by the Winemaker, Pierre Vincent who took us down into the cellar for arguably the best Chardonnay tasting I have experienced to date.
Again we only tasted wines from the 2015 vintage which I soon realized was a really exceptional Burgundy vintage. We started with their Macon Verze 2015 produced from a site outside the Cote d’Or in the Cote Challonaise and worked our way back up into the Cote de Beaune vineyards. What I found so refreshing from the visit was their absolute honesty regarding their wines and their willingness to share. Something I truly believe in and feel we don’t do enough of within the South African wine industry.
After tasting a few bottled wines, Pierre Vincent led us into the winery where he conducted a tasting of all their 2015 grand crus sites. To say my mind was blown is an understatement. The wines were for a lack of better words, oxymoron in style. Finesse and elegance infused with power and structure.
The real showstopper presented itself in the Chevalier Montrachet 2015. Tasting notes below:
Spicy orange zest with marmalade tones. Has an understated power with pure elegance and class. Only 25% new oak used
The moment was so big that it required a ridiculous photo in the Chevalier Montrachet vineyard after the tasting.
The vineyard of Chevalier Montrachet in Puligny Montrachet
I highlighted only 25% new oak used in my tasting note as this was a complete revelation and I suppose this part is more suited to either winemakers or wine geeks. For a wine to contain so much power and length and yet only contain 25% new oak astonishes me. It has become an increasing trend in the SA wine industry to reduce oak contact as well as the percentage used. I have never been convinced based on the wines I have tasted locally. Tasting Burgundies such as these produced in this manner has altered my perception.
The following day we had a very fortuitous tasting at Domaine Arnoux in Chorey – les – Beaune. The tasting was not scheduled prior to our trip and only occurred as we had met the son, Jean Baptiste at Bouchard Finlayson a few weeks earlier in South Africa. Here we were treated to a full barrel tasting of the 2016 vintage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which mostly reflected their premieur crus vineyards and their one Corton Grand Cru vineyards.
Jean – Baptiste siphoning Corton “Le Rognet” Grand Cru 2016 from barrel
If this wasn’t not enough, we then proceeded upstairs and tasted through their entire bottled range from the 2014 and 2015 vintage. I really enjoyed their selection of Chardonnay’s produced as a village classification representing Chorey – Les Beaune, Savigny – Les – Beaune and Pernand – Vergelesses. All these vineyards are a stone throw away from the mighty hill of Aloxe Corton producing some of the finest white Burgundy the world has to offer.
During the tasting I noticed how bright and vivid the wines were, especially the Pinot Noir. Granted they were from a younger vintage but had sublime clarity and red wine hue.
Corton “Le Rognet” Grand Cru 2014
As with all the visits we had, Jean – Baptiste was extremely hospitable and humble. It was refreshing to taste wines during our visit of such magnitude and for them to be presented by people with zero ego or arrogance.
In the days that followed, we spent as much time as we could touring the vineyards visiting the Premieur and Grand cru sites. Until visiting Burgundy, I always believed the distinction between the classifications to be convoluted. Visiting and experiencing this made the differences so much clearer to me as can be seen in the image below.
A visit to the Clos de Lambray vineyard
On the right hand side of the image is the famous Clos des Lambrays vineyard in Morey St – Denis. This is a Grand Cru classified vineyard. Directly across the road a mere 10 meters away lies the Morey St Denis vineyard classified as village wine. On close inspection of the grand cru soil pictured below, the soil is rich in organic matter and clustered with marble and limestone.
The grand cru soil of Clos des Lambrays
No trip to Burgundy can take place without visiting the most famous vineyard in the world, Romanee Conti. Unfortunately this was not tasted but certainly next time.
The famous Romanee Conti vineyard in Vosne Romanee
It tastes like fudge.
The Fudge 2012 was created from desiccated grapes, which we're terming petrified. We managed to pin down winemaker Clayton Reabow mid-harvest to ask him all about this luscious dessert wine, made with 100% chardonnnay.
"We crimp the bunches stem so that all water translocation to the bunch is cut off. This occurs on the vine. The grapes begin to desiccate or dehydrate to the point that they look like raisins. The sugar level in the grape at harvest is close to 500g/L.
When we harvest, we de stem the grapes and then place the stems back into the press so that they act abrasively on the grapes and assist with juice extraction. We press over 24 hours as it is difficult to extract juice from a raison. The first juice that runs off we disregard, and we rather keep the “syrup”
The juice is not settled and transferred directly into barrel for wild fermentation. The ferment stops naturally due to the high osmotic pressure of the sugar on the yeast which eventually kills it off. The wine is matured in oak for 18 months.
What inspired you to create a 100% chardonnay sticky?
My inspiration to create the wine was based on my inquisitiveness to see if it could be done or had been done previously. I did my homework and found that there was not much, in fact any, chardonnay straw wines available. Most as you know are made from chenin blanc, viognier, etc. So in 2012 we decided to experiment by vine drying the grapes. At the time, I did not know it would work so well. What was amazing for me was to see the sugar dehydrate to almost 50 balling which you can say is 500 g/L. The acidity remained exactly the same as the day we crimped it which was another anomaly for me although perfectly understandable.
What I love about the wine is the purity of the palate. Most dessert wines accumulate volatile acids very quickly due to the sheer volume of sugar contained in the post ferment. The chardonnay seemed to fight this off and maintain low volatile acids.
The fact that we have matured this wine in bottle for 4 years prior to release makes it extremely special for me.
At Môreson Wines we are committed to growing and producing world class Chardonnay.
Môreson Mercator Premium Chardonnay 2014 recently took home five-stars in the annual Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide and is officially recognised as one of the very best Chardonnays in South Africa. Read more about that here.
All of the Chardonnay wines produced are grown exclusively on our estate. Currently we grow just over 20 hectares of Chardonnay with a focus on producing wines that not only express our distinct sense of place but also wines that convey the character profiles of each individual clone.
What are clones of Chardonnay you may ask?
Clones are deliberate selections of grapevines that exhibit desirable traits such as:
Currently we boast the most Chardonnay clones planted for a single producer in South Africa. We grow 14 various Chardonnay clones that have been selected for their ability to express unique aromatic and palate profiles. Some clones are sparkling wine specific while others are still wine specific. In certain cases, you obtain dual clones, which can be used for both sparkling wine and still wine production. Many of our Chardonnay wines are clone specific and in certain cases are only produced from a single vineyard or single clone. These wines are very special in that they display consistency year on year and are only influenced by vintage.
The first planting of Chardonnay took place in the Winter of 1998 with a 2.42 hectare vineyard of clone CY 277. This vineyard still exists today and is now the 3rd oldest Chardonnay vineyard in South Africa. We still produce wine from this vineyard which can be tasted in our Moreson Solitaire Blanc de blancs.
Today we produce 8 different Chardonnay wines that are expressed as various winemaking styles. Our goal each time is to create a unique and out the box experience for each particular product.
We have selected and packaged the best examples of our Chardonnay for you to taste and take home. All these wines are a result of the relentless effort and collaborative working relationship between each person who works on Moreson. We hope that you enjoy drinking these wines just as much as we enjoyed creating them for you.
Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide is the definitive guide to South African wines with more than 8,000 wines from over 900 producers reviewed annually. The top wines are then scrutinised in a blind tasting by an expert panel of judges to find the best in the country. Môreson Mercator Premium Chardonnay 2014 took home five-stars, and is officially recognised as one of the very best Chardonnays in South Africa.
*Winemaker Clayton Reabow and GM Nikki Friedman were all smiles!
At the annual awards Môreson received its first five-star rating from the prestigious industry bible for their estate grown Chardonnay as well as receiving a total of eight nominations for five-star wines as a whole.
The accolade is made even more meaningful to Môreson’s winemaking team as Chardonnay is the varietal this family-run Franschhoek farm hangs its hat on.
GM of Môreson Nikki Friedman says: “We started producing this wine because my dad loves a good, wooded chardonnay.
“To see where it’s gone over the last 20 years is unbelievable. What's also so important is that every part of the wine has been touched by our farm. Every single person who works on Môreson, no matter their role, has contributed to the wine.”
Winemaker Clayton Reabow comments: “I’m privileged to work with a team of people who have a collective vision towards growing, producing and packaging world-class wine. Together we have adopted a no compromise policy on our wines starting with our Chardonnay vineyards and growing this into the rest of our portfolio. It has taken us years to breed a collective mind-set of producing Chardonnay with soul and integrity.
“The award justifies the decision made 10 years ago to focus exclusively on growing Chardonnay vineyards on Môreson. All our existing Sauvignon blanc and Chenin blanc vineyards were uprooted and replaced with various Chardonnay clones that were selected based on their suitability to the different soil types on the farm. Today we grow 13 different clones spread across 21 separate vineyard blocks. We are thrilled to be recognised as one of the top Chardonnay producers for 2017.
“Although we consider our vineyard practices sustainable, our future target is to convert all our vineyards over to organic farming principles. We have already started with 10 per cent of our vineyard surface and will slowly convert the rest over time. The key motivation is to protect our soils and ensure that they have sufficient microbial life within them. This in turn will also produce better wines. We are very excited at this prospect.”
With vision like this, the future for Môreson Wine Estate looks as golden as their five-star rated Mercator Premium Chardonnay.
Our Môreson Mercator Premium Chardonnay has struck gold.
We took home a gold at the 23th annual Chardonnay du Monde® competition. This isn't the first time either, in both 2004 and 2007 we were also awarded Chardonnay du Monde Gold Medals.
The intensive wine competition was held on 8 to 11 March 2016 at Château des Ravatys, the wine estate of the Pasteur Institute at Saint Lager in the Burgundy wine region of France. Where Chardonnay producers pitted their wines against the best from all over the world.
We are so proud of our winemaking team for this incredible achievement. And honoured to be recognised for our Chardonnay—the varietal we feel most passionately about.
Congratulations too, to all the other South African Gold Winners!
On Sunday the 30th of October 2011 you can experience James Grace* on guitar at Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant for just R280. Flippin awesome!
This price includes a three course meal with a to-die-for menu. Picture … a selection of breads with smoked rooibos butter; roast pepper, potato & olive broth; red wine poached sirloin, parsley puree & bonemarrow; lemon meringue pie and coffee.
To book please call Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant on 021 876 4004.
*Acclaimed guitarist, two time SAMA nominee, KANNA Award winner for Best Male Artist at the 2010 KKNK, 2011 KykNET Fiesta award winner and widely acknowledged as one of the hardest working concert artists in South Africa, James Grace performs highlights from his award-winning catalogue of CDs including Music of Spain, Café Latino and World Café. James is joined by Christopher Duigan at the piano for selected new items from their ongoing collaboration of improvised guitar and piano music, exploring the tango, jazz and contemporary film music genres.