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Short notes from South Africa: Meerlust, Grande Provence, De Morgenzon, Jordan, Kanonkop, Paul Cluver & La Motte

December 20, 2019

These are notes from a recent trip to Cape Town, South Africa – highly recommended for its stunning beauty, rich cultural heritage, beautiful people, wildlife, excellent food and, of course, its wines. I must admit I’ve not really been exposed to South African wines but my day trip on 10 December 2019 to the regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek was a real eye-opener. The vineyards and estates are beautifully managed with real sophistication, and it appears that almost every wine estate comes with a full-fledged classy restaurant. I can certainly vouch that the quality of the wine produced is extremely high at prices that are very friendly although I doubt the latter will stay this way forever. Vines have been grown in South Africa since the Dutch first arrived in the 17th century. Because of that, the locals tend to think of their wines as Old World but, to me, they are distinctly New World as there are no laws governing viticulture and production. Irrigation is allowed, amongst other things, and, as such, the actual characteristics of terroir struggle for identity. Nevertheless, one should not hesitate to delve deeper into South African wines for there is much to enjoy and partake. Just be sure to allow for some bottle age and aeration. The following wines were all tasted at their respective estates, unless otherwise stated.

20191209_125916.jpg2018 Paul Cluver Elgin Riesling, 09 Dec 2019 at Two Oceans restaurant, Cape of Good Hope. Pale. Delightful bouquet of peaches and tropical fruit with very good concentration of fruit with an illusion of fizz on the palate, producing excellent mouthfeel. Has a certain crystalline quality layered with a deeper streak of refined earthiness and ferrous minerals, displaying good balance, precision and lively acidity. Not too crisp, finishing with sweet overtones. Quite excellent.

2018 Meerlust Chardonnay. Aged in 50% new French barrels. Hint of oiliness on a nose dominated by white floral tones along with some creamy chalkiness. Very fresh and clean, displaying good concentration, definition and acidity on a palate underscored by ferrous minerals. Very fine.

2017 Meerlust Pinot Noir. Darker in colour and tone, recalling ripe raspberries and cranberries. Good definition and integration with fine acidity, though rather narrow and tight. From 21 year-old vines, aged in 50% French Allier barrels.

2016 Meerlust Merlot. Actually a blend, containing 10% cabernet franc and 5% petit verdot. Deep garnet red. Some lovely earthiness amid a hint of capsicum with a vegetal trace. Concentrated with clean tight acidity that confer great power and structured tannins. Distinctly masculine.

2016 Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 16 months in French oak. Very dark with a distinct phenolic nose of black fruits. Medium-full. Exudes a very natural unforced presence, very well balanced with subtle acidity and intensity, finishing with sweet undertones. Very fine.

2016 Meerlust Rubicon, a blend of 49% cabernet sauvignon, 28% merlot, 20% cabernet franc and 3% petit verdot. Lifted aromas of very dark velvety fruit, mocha and dark chocolate that led to a classic cabernet palate of earthy dark fruits that oozed with lovely juicy sweetness, quite seamlessly structured with fine acidity and dark intensity, finishing well.


2016 Jordan MCC Blanc de Blancs. Fermented in 70% wood and 30% in stainless steel vats and aged for 36 months on lees. Lovely colour tinged with green, proffering gentle notes of yeast and distant green fruits and citrus. More intense on the palate with a forward balance of lime and citrus tinged of bitter lemon, showing very clean precision with fine detail and linearity within a body of very fine bubbles, not too dry. Very attractive.

20191210_105554.jpg2018 Jordan Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. Aged in 50% new French burgundy barrels. Good colour. More buttery on the nose with overtones of lavender, white floral notes and spices. Very good in concentration, glowing with lovely intensity of fruit, revealing fine inner detail underscored by a subtle trace of ferrous minerals. Very well balanced. Very fine.

2018 Jordan Nine Yards Chardonnay. Made from  29 year-old vines with a limited production of 10 barrels max. Seems Richard Branson had a hand in the naming of this wine. Deep yellowish-greenish tinge, proffering green fruits, butterscotch and incense on a nose that is almost Puligny-like. Quite open, layered with good concentration of fruit, crème, traces of nutmeg, green elements, spice and subdued chalk with a bit of plumpness. Very well-integrated and balanced with a very natural unforced feel. Very Burgundian in character. Excellent.

2016 Jordan The Long Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon, grown from vines grafted with Californian cuttings. Dark deep purple. Ample in dark cherries and dark plums with a hint of spice and capsicum, tinged with dark chocolate. Good balance. Drinking well.

2015 Jordan Cobblers Hill. A Bordeaux blend aged in 100% new large French barrels. Displaying a brilliant deep crimson, this wine exudes generous aromas of black currants, cassis and black cherries tinged with chocolate and mocha. Richly layered with dark plummy tones on a classic cabernet palate with sweet velvety tones. Seamlessly integrated and well proportioned, structured with highly refined sophisticated tannins.

2014 Jordan Sophia. Only 900 bottles annually, available only at auction. A blend of 58% cabernet sauvignon, 29% merlot and 13% cabernet franc, this is only the second release after 2013, aged for 28 months in large French barrels. Deep garnet red. Reticent now, hinting at some red capsicum. Open, fleshy and rounded with good concentration, displaying balanced lively acidity with an understated subtle tannin structure. Quietly poised with excellent refinement without betraying its 14.5% abv. Very elegant.


2019 De Morgenzon DMZ Chenin Blanc. Fresh morning dew with grassy elements. Very good concentration of pears with a hint of longans, imparting excellent crisp freshness and zest with fine intensity. Drinking well.

2017 De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc. Aged in 30% new French oak. Quite open. Excellent crisp freshness with a dash of morning dew and a bit of creamy buttery character. Rounded with very good concentration and inner definition of green melons, fig and smouldering ember. Very well structured. There’s a lot going on in there waiting to be resolved through the passage of time. Excellent potential.

2018 De Morgenzon DMZ Chardonnay. Fresh morning dew, nutmeg with some crème on the nose. Very good concentration of fruit underscored by the classic chalkiness of chardonnay with overtones of green capsicum., showing good definition. Not plump. Easy on the palate.

2018 De Morgenzon Reserve Chardonnay. Good colour. Richer in delicate minerals than the DMZ above. Rounded with notes of spiced pear and raw nutmeg, almost burnished in tone. Excellent concentration and balance, finishing with great refinement. Very correct. Quite excellent.

2016 De Morgenzon Maestro Red. A Bordeaux blend of 39% cabernet sauvignon, 38% merlot, 13% cabernet franc and 10% malbec. Displaying a deep garnet red, the wine exudes dryish nose of malt, rye, dark fruits and dark chocolate with a suggestion of iron ore. Rounded and fleshy. Quite open with a predominance of deep black fruits with a hint of green capsicum and bell pepper, showing very good integration between the fruit, acidity and velvety tannins. Good sophistication. Quite excellent.

2017 De Morgenzon Maestro Blue, a blend of 58% syrah, 26% grenache noir and 10% mouvedre. Deep garnet red. Shut on the nose, proffering just glimpses of dark fruits and blackberries with a trace of forest characters. Excellent fullness, displaying dark spicy tones on a bed of sweet velvety tannins. Highly harmonious and open. Very successful.


At De Morgenzon, the vines enjoy serious classical music 24/7

2017 Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage. Made from 30 year-old vines, aged in 2-3 year-old oak. Darkly coloured, proffering deep dark currants on the nose. Excellent in concentration with a sharply defined accentuated palate, rather spicy in its lively acidity. Full but soft enough at the edges. Accessible.

2017 Kanonkop Estate Pinotage. From 55 year-old vines, aged for 16 months in 75% new oak. Very dark. Less forward than the Kadette but generously endowed with abundant warm ripe fruit that is overshadowed by lively acidity. Rather dark in tone, showing good detail, structured with velvety tannins at its spicy finish.

2018 Kanonkop Kadette Cabernet Sauvignon. Made from 24 year-old vines. Deep garnet red, exuding characters of earth and forest floor with bright plummy tones. Good fullness. Very fine in concentration, acidity and intensity, underscored by distinct ferrous elements and earthy minerals.

2015 Kanonkop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. From 24 year-old vines, aged in 50% French oak. Impenetrably dark. Concentrated nose of medicinal characters and licorice. Full, fleshy but tight. Ample in cool ripe fruit that exude darkish tones. Boldly structured with lively acidity. Still tannic at this stage.

20191210_141141.jpg2016 Kanonkop Paul Sauer, the estate’s flagship, a blend of 67% cabernet sauvignon, 24% merlot and 9% cabernet franc. Deep dark ruby, displaying ripe dark cherries and currants on the nose with good early complexity. Open and fleshy with excellent presence, imbued with an intense streak of deep dark fruit amid fleeting subtle acidity. Highly supple. Excellent.

2017 Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage. A cross between pinot noir and hermitage coming from a 2.5 ha plot planted in 1953, producing only 5000 bottles annually. Very deep impenetrable purple, hinting at very dark sweet currants, black fruits and dark cherries with traces of rye. Concentration, rounded and supple, amply layered with dense black fruits and fine acidity, displaying great balance and control in spite of its ample proportions, finishing with highly refined dryish tannins that reveal gritty detail amid traces of sweet.

2019 La Motte Sauvignon Blanc. Pale. Attractive bouquet of grassy elements with the intensity of wild flowers and nutmeg on the nose amid some earthiness. Concentrated with dry crisp cutting acidity and sharp intensity, lit with bright minerally tones.

2018 La Motte Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc. Unwooded, aged for 11 months in stainless steel tanks. Grassy elements dominate with spicy tones of green capsicum, chilli and raw nutmeg. Rather full. Plenty of vibrant acidity and detail on a floor of dry earthy ferrous minerals.

2017 La Motte Millenium. Mainly merlot and cabernet franc. Dark, intense phenolic characters. Full presence of dark fruits and wild berries, endowed with great acidity that impart sharp intensity and attack before tapering to a dry crisp finish.

2017 La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark fruits, mahogany, ripe wild berries and strawberries on the nose. Open and lithe, rather full, imbued with very fine intensity and acidity on a backdrop of dry dusty tannins with traces of vegetal forest floor, finishing with a dash of spice.

2018 La Motte Franschhoek Chardonnay. Aged in both wooded and unwooded sources. Distinctly more buttery and creamy on the nose. Full-bodied. Crisp with very good concentration, showing clean precision and sharp acidity with overtones of green chilli and white pepper. Very taut at this stage, not yielding much detail.

2017 La Motte Franschhoek Syrah. Dark. Abundant in ripe wild berries with a classic warm syrah character. Supple, clean and tight, imbued with raspberries, spices and some early development of cedar, finishing on a hot spicy note.

2016 La Motte Pierneef Syrah Viognier. A Northern Rhóne blend containing 5% viognier. Dark. Ample in warm dark fruits and currants amid traces of vanillin. Full but slimly defined with a firm acidic spine that imparted sharp attack and intensity. Unyielding.

2016 Grande Provence TGP White Flagship, comprising 60% chenin blanc, 30% viognier and 10% chardonnay. Good colour. Shy with a slight earthy pungency. Rather unusual palate where creamy tones are offset by sharper note of raw nutmeg, bell pepper and spice. Taut and narrow in spectrum, underscored by ferrous minerals.

2016 Grande Provence TGP Amphora, comprising 99% chenin blanc topped with 1% muscat. Fermented in clay pot. Clear golden lustre. Shy, proffering white floral tones and dense chalk on the nose. Medium-full. Spicy with a lean acidic spine, almost austere. Not enough fruit balance.

2015 Grande Provence TGP Red Flagship, comprising 60% merlot, 30% cabernet sauvignon and 10% malbec. Very dark. Full presence of dark fruits, black cherries and currants. Warm, ripe and acidic with overtones of licorice and charcoal. Powerfully structured but tight and unyielding.


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