The Liberator Syrah
‘The Liberator’ – aka Rick – is 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 The Francophile Syrah marked a departure for Rick who commissioned the making of this young vine Syrah, rather than repurposing existing cuvees. It’s intended to be sustainable and repeatable; to be enjoyed copiously in the knowledge that it is not subject to the finite quantities imposed by The Liberator Special Editions.
Hand-picked from the weathered granite soils on the cooler south-east facing slopes of the Bottelary Hills, these grapes were sourced with Rick’s Francophile palate in mind. The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks (using indigenous yeasts), incorporating around 15% of whole bunches to help retain both fruit and freshness. After enjoying a two week post-fermentation maceration, the young wine was drawn-off into concrete tanks, stainless steel and seasoned barriques where it underwent the malolactic fermentation, before being aged for a further 12 months and then bottled (without filtration).
The Liberator Francophile Syrah most resembles a young Crozes-Hermitage. Full of vibrant red-black fruit and with an aromatic nose reminiscent of Saint-Joseph lilies, the result is a thrilling young red that is free of the constraints and manipulated flavour profile that come with barrel-ageing. This is a very pure and naked example of the Syrah grape.
Dangerously drinkable on release, it could be expected to age for three to five years in bottle.
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.