The Liberator Chenin Blanc
“For those commentators content to view South African Chenin Blanc as the primary source of industrial quantities of sub-standard supermarket promotional fodder, think again…. (This is) a wine that is designed to demonstrate what can be achieved with a little bit of care and attention in both the vineyard and the cellar. It might well remain South Africa’s most widely planted grape variety, but it’s a fact that should be celebrated and not dismissed.”
This is the opinion of ‘The Liberator’ – aka Rick – the alter ego of Master of Wine Richard Kelley. He one of the most respected authorities on South African wine in the UK and beyond. Between 1995 and 2002 living and working in the Cape, witnessing the renaissance of the post-apartheid wine industry, affording him access to distinguished cellars and winemakers.
He is renowned for ‘liberating’ great wines (maybe an occasional experimental batch, or possibly an interesting off-cut from some proud winemaker’s latest premium release) that are resigned to a tragic fate of being blended away or disposed of in bulk.
Sourcing and creating this Chenin Blanc marked a departure for Rick who commissioned the making of this wine from a fantastic resource of old, bush vine Chenin, rather than liberating an existing parcel.
With Rick’s Francophile palate in mind – convinced that Chenin Blanc is, in fact, the world’s greatest grape variety – parcels were selected from two growing sites, namely the Bottelary Hills and the Simonsberg mountains. In collaboration with winemaker Carl van der Merwe, they were fermented in stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness. Without recourse to any malolactic fermentation, the wine was aged on its lees, prior to being bottled.
The Liberator Francophile Chenin Blanc is delicious on release, but could be expected to evolve and gain additional complexity over the next two to three years.
About the Producer
DeMorgenzon, translating as ‘the morning sun,’ was so named as it is the first part of the Stellenboschkloof valley to see the early morning rays because of its high altitude and aspects.
DeMorgenzon’s vineyards are on slopes that rise from about 200m to nearly 400m above sea level with vistas that embrace Cape Town, Table Mountain, Cape Point, the Hottentots Holland mountains, Helderberg and Simonsberg with the ocean as a backdrop.
When Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum bought DeMorgenzon they used satellite and historical data, as well as an examination of physical factors, to thoroughly analyse the micro climate, typography and a detailed soil analysis. This enabled the demarcation of the best option block boundaries and the allocation of cultivars according to varietal preferences. It also helped to determine the choice of rootstock, row and plant spacing and row direction. They have thus established these vine rows in harmony with the terroir, the sun and the elements. In Spring specially chosen wildflowers flourish between the vines for a biodiverse and ecologically sensitive environment.
Approximately 10% of DeMorgenzon has been set aside for the restoration of Renosterveld, a dominant vegetation type with a very high species diversity but one of the most threatened habitats in the Cape floral kingdom. Because it consists of fertile soils, much of Renosterveld has been ploughed for agriculture, including the Cape’s best vineyards. As part of the restoration DeMorgenzon have removed 15ha of pine forest and assorted invasive alien species and are still in the process of further clearing.
Winemaker Adam Mason graduated from Stellenbosch University with a degree in Oenology and Viticulture in 1997. Four years of alternating harvests between France and South Africa, with forays into Spain and Italy when he got the chance, provided an invaluable opportunity to not only discover new worlds of sounds and flavours but perhaps more importantly to experience the rich heritage of centuries-old European winemaking traditions.
In 2003 he was appointed Cellar-master at the historic Klein Constantia Estate, a post he held for over 8 years then on to head the winemaking department of the newly transformed Mulderbosch Vineyards. Adam succeeded Carl Van Der Merwe, after his decade’s tenure, as winemaker at DeMorgenzon in 2020.