If you try different wines, you are bound to figure out what works for you. This week’s wine sees a change of tempo, as I have shared enough of the good, everyday South African wines. I recently discovered that taste preferences are genetic. It sounds obvious with hindsight, but was not something I consciously thought of. It supports what I felt in the start of this blog on South African wines. As I post about wine weekly, I don’t have an intention of making you believe what is a good wine or a bad wine. I can simply tell you about a wine that I enjoy (a HIT) versus a wine that I personally thought was a MISS. This week I am tasting the DeMorgenzon Maestro Red 2011 vintage!
People have varying taste preferences that range from those who are non-sensitive, i.e., they can handle spicy hot food, loving the richest flavours, to the other end of the spectrum, where people are hyper sensitive, meaning , everything tastes intense for them, be it sweet or sour or salty or bitter. I fall more into the former camp, which is why I tend to like the bold wines. This was the last of the bottles I bought a couple of years back, while visiting the DeMorgenzon wine estate. Drinking the last bottle I have of this vintage of the DeMorgenzon Maestro Red 2011, could not have come at a better time. It’s a Category B wine (explained in my blog post on the Thelema Sauvignon Blanc).
I store my wines in a cool room with windows blocked out so as to not allow in sunlight. It’s not a proper cellar, but it is cool enough, through the sweltering South African heat in summer. On a hot summer day, the room peaks at about 26 degrees Celsius. On the day I opened this wine, it was a scorcher in Cape Town, and the wine bottle was 25 degrees Celsius when I took it out of storage (January 2017). I put the bottle of wine in the freezer for ten minutes, as I wanted to chill it to a more decent serving temperature. The cooler temperature of the wine makes for a more defined experience when nosing and tasting. I wish I had bust the room temperature myth before opening the other two bottles of the vintage I had. If you are not aware of what I am on about regarding the temperature of wine, read my last blog on the Spier Signature Merlot.
The 2011 vintage of the DeMorgenzon Maestro Red is a Bordeaux blend that has received numerous awards, evidenced by the number of stickers on the bottle. Some people are easily swayed by the number of stickers, believing that it infers something about the quality of the wine inside the bottle. Remember, just because some wine aficionados think it’s fantastic, it doesn’t mean your senses will draw the same conclusion about that wine. So I try not to get distracted by the stickers in assessing what my perceptions and perspective are after I have tasted the wine.
The colour of the wine was a deep, ruby red. I would have expected the intensity of the colour to have weakened, seeing as the wine is 6 years old. The viscosity was very noticeable, and it had lovely legs. The legs of a wine tell you nothing about how good it is. All it tells you is that the volume of alcohol is high, in this case 14.5%. The ten minute chill in the freezer had the wine now at nineteen degrees Celsius. I know this, because I have a wine thermometer which tells me the temperature of the wine in the bottle. Yes, there really is such a toy…
I used the large round bowl glass. We call those glasses the ‘Olivia Pope glasses’, as Chomba and I were always fascinated by the gigantic wine glass Kerry Washington would be pouring her wine into in the series Scandal. Those glasses are great as the larger exposed wine surface in the glass gives you a better chance of collecting more aromas. Definitely recommended if you are pouring a complex wine such as a Bordeaux blend.
With blends, not every vintage has the exact same balance of the grapes. So this 2011 DeMorgenzon Maestro red was 41% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc. If you look at the 2013 vintage, there is only 16% Merlot and the Malbec is more at 24% with no Petit Verdot. I will have to order and see what the 2013 does for me. That’s the beauty about wine. If you watch out for these little nuances, you get to pick up why the wine itself can be different by vintage, before factoring for aging and other dynamics at play, including your taste changing.
It’s a dry wine. The nose was simply amazing. It was spicy on the one hand and also quite floral. I definitely picked up mint and a bit of pepper. Not a lot of wood in the nose, especially considering the wine was matured for a good 14 months in wood (9 months for the single varietal grapes and a further 5 months once blended).
On sipping it, the tannins were pleasant and non-invasive. They were soft tannins, enough to cleanse the palate, but not sharp and bitter in the mouth. It gave a silky and smooth feeling of wine in the mouth. It was not acidic. The flavours were quite fruity, dark berry like. With a long finish, this wine is bold! This tasting experience of the DeMorgenzon Maestro Red 2011, was again wonderful. Similar to the experience I had the first time I tasted it, in the way it made me feel. I am convinced that for the bottles I drank in between, my taste was distorted because of the wine being relatively warm.
I love it when wine ventures ‘out there’ and the winemaker does not play it safe. I see from the website that Carl van der Merwe joined the DeMorgenzon wine estate in 2010, after the harvest, so this bottle would have been his first stab at The Maestro. The 2015 vintage is priced at R182 a bottle on their website, so a comfortable Category B wine. I have never met Carl, but I have met the owner of DeMorgenzon, Wendy Applebaum. She is quite intense and bold, so the wine is fitting to the character.
The work Wendy Applebaum has done as a philanthropist, is part of the reason it also feels that much better for me to support her and the team in their winemaking. Wendy valiantly fought for her staff, and in turn many South Africans, who were being exploited by unscrupulous credit providers who used Emolument Attachment Orders (Garnishee Orders) to rob them of their dignity. So not all wine farm owners are bullies and slave drivers as displayed by Schalk Burger when his practices at Welbedacht wine estate were exposed.
The DeMorgenzon wine estate is magnificent, as is their wine. I also love the brand and what it stands for. I’m happy to enjoy the fruits of the vine, but there is a social responsibility on all of us in how we go about that. The wine farm is in Stellenbosch. Their claim that they pipe Baroque music through the vineyards and cellar might just be part of the secret to what they reap. Why would the wine taste any less inspired, if that is the attitude of the hands that tend to the soil and the grapes?