Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate brings Italy to Somerset West, and to Open Wine in Cape Town!

Open Wine is offering local wine lovers as well as visitors to our city a wonderful service in introducing the wine brands it stocks by means of a one-hour tasting on Tuesday evenings, each tasting being hosted by a different wine brand. Last night the focus was on Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate, not only on its wines but on its olive oils too.

The Morgenster tasting was hosted by Jason de Beer, its Global Sales & Marketing Manager. Jason told us about Morgenster owner Giulio Bertrand, who wanted a summer home in the Cape, and chose Morgenster, once part of one large farm which included Vergelegen and Lourensford. In 1994 the farm had 200ha of fertile soil, which was perfect for grapes and olives. Bertrand focused on olive oil initially, and looked to his Italian past to bring in the best Italian olive cultivars, planting seventeen varietals’ root stock. The farm had previously had owners who also hailed from Piedmont. By 2014 they had planted 5000ha with olives. A highlight for Bertrand was that in 2015 he has been recognized by the olive oil industry for all the work he has done for olive oils in our country. The farm dates back to 1711. 

Olive oil tasting 

Jason started with a tasting of two Olive oils, its Morgenster Extra Virgin Olive Oil blend of 14 cultivars, and its Don Carlo Single Cultivar olive oil. We were asked to hold each of the glasses with the olive oil in our hand and cup it, topping it too, so that the oil can warm up before one smells it and then tastes it. 

The Morgenster Extra Virgin Olive Oil was described as a milder olive oil, and that one can smell the leaf of the olive tree, fresh cut grass, artichoke, and apple. It is an exceptional Olive oil, and is sold in 52 countries, and is stocked at Harrods in London and Le Bon Marché in Paris, which I visited last week. 

The Don Carlo olive oil is unique to South Africa, Morgenster being the only estate with the patent rights to it in our country.  It tastes more peppery, and is full-bodied. It has flavours of green apple, and artichoke. In the international olive oil competition Flos Olei the Don Carlo has been one of the top olive oils for the past twelve years, and is one of few olive estates scoring 98 points out of 100. 

A new olive press has just been imported at the cost of R5 million, and is currently being installed. The olive oil producer at Morgenster visits Italy every year, so that he can keep up to date with trends. Research & Development is vital to Morgenster. Each of the Morgenster olive oil products has a SA Olive sticker on it at the back of the bottle. They offer ‘martini olives’, kalamata olives, lemon-infused olive oil, with a special Balsamic olive oil made for Morgenster in Modena. They also offer a truffle-infused olive oil. 

It is interesting to note how far the olive oil has come in our country, olive oils only having been available in pharmacies for medicinal purposes twenty years ago.

The Extra Virgin olive oil range includes the Morgenster branch, Monte Marcello Extra Virgin olive oil, and Don Carlo Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

Wine tasting

The Morgenster wines are made in the Bordeaux style, being blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. 

We started with a tasting of two vintages of the Lourens River Valley, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. When Bertrand introduced wine for the first time in 1998, he decided to use their second label Lourens River Valley. 

The 2009 is Merlot-led, with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is matured in French oak. They use nine coopers for their wines, and buy barrels to the value of around R2 million per year. It has good wood integration in the wine. Every year they select the lead cultivar. The 2005 is also Merlot-led, at 65%, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. A bottle from the cellar costs about R180. Jason said that the 2005 vintage has a good integration of fruit and wood. The older vintages are doing well, and can be put down for a further 3-5 years. 

The Morgenster Reserve was first released in 2000. What is unusual is that they can offer their clients  up to twelve years of vintage to taste, from 2000 onwards. Every year they choose the best cultivar as the lead one.  Handpicked grapes which are the best are selected in making the Morgenster Reserve. A grape variety must taste like the wine which will be made from it. The lead cultivar gets the best cooperage. The blend has almost equal proportions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine spends 18 months in new French oak.

In 2000 they released the first Morgenster Reserve, and it fetched R1800 per bottle at the Nederburg Auction last year. The 2003 vintage offers complexity and elegance, rare for a 14 year old wine. The Morgenster Reserve costs R480 per bottle.

Morgenster also makes an Italian Connection range from its Sangiovese and Nebellio vineyards. In addition it has a White wine, and a Nu Series 1. 

Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate, Somerset West. Tel (021) 852-1738 Twitter:@morgenster_sa Instagram: @morgenster

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein


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