Quietly and without making a big huff and puff, Franschhoek is putting its hand up as a premier Chardonnay region. While Cape Chamonix is – deservedly – getting the bulk of the attention as the region’s Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir) heavy-weight, I rate Môreson as one of South Africa’s most exciting interpreters of the world’s greatest white variety.
The farm has an easy elegance and an invigorating youthful appeal. From the Bread and Wine restaurant and deli, to the quirky names of its wines and the fresh enthusiasm of the unassuming winemaker Clayton Reabow, Môreson has always struck my tuning fork.
Clayton has become paramount to Môreson’s success. He has shown himself to be a fine and skilled winemaker, raking in awards including those in the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge as well as for Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year. But it is his focussed adventurousness and disarming enthusiasm I find most appealing, and youthful winemakers such as Clayton are proof that the South African industry is in good hands. The industry itself just needs to start incorporating this fresh school into its structures and it will see the sometimes staidness of its image burn off like a mist in the morning sun.
Finding some time to play wineland tourist, I rolled into Môreson last week. There was to be no table at Bread and Wine as the place was, like most eateries in the area, booked out weeks in advance. So the visit only entailed a bout of frenetic wine tasting through the range.
Actually, I was only there for one wine. And if a wine going by the name of “Knoputibak” is not going to pique your interest, it is time for a reconditioning of the senses.
Not only the name, but Knoputibak is a blend conceived by Clayton comprising Chardonnay and Sémillon. Clayton’s reasoning is that Chardonnay and Sémillon are Franschhoek’s two signature white varieties, so why not combine them as homage to what the region does best? Providing they can tango without falling over each other’s feet, of course.
Knoputibak, as in “haal jou knop uit die bak” for those understanding Afrikaans, blends the wine 90% to 10%, with the Chardonnay obviously in the lead role. All the grapes are from Môreson and the wine was matured in new oak for around 10 months. Well, my journey was worth it, as this is indeed a very interesting wine.
Sémillon is, of course, splashed in among many Sauvignon Blancs to give the wine a bit of depth, oemf and palate-weight. But this is fine as Sauvignon Blanc is a pussy grape without the structure, depth and multi-layered complexity of good Chardonnay.
Upon hearing of the blend and knowing the quality of Môreson’s Chardonnay my first question was why mess around with the sterling juice you have? As in, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
Tasting the Knoputibak 2012 revealed all.
Being on the river’s edge of the sunbaked-flats, of Franschhoek, Môreson’s Chardonnay – like its neighbours – has a distinct floral sunniness. Fresh almond, apricot and butterscotch abound in the farm’s Premium Chardonnay, which like Knoputibak is aged in new wood for just under a year. The wine is ripe, but without being cloying. Fresh and brisk, but without overworked minerality suppressing the gloriously colourful palette of ripe fruit and floral aromas. It has been one of my top five South African Chardonnays for some time.
But add 10% Sémillon, and everything changes. You find a totally new wine deserved of a new identity as well as of serious recognition as unique white blend.
The Knoputibak leads with a typical bit of Sémillon waxiness on the nose, immediately neutralising the characteristic Chardonnay hit of grilled nuts and orange peel. There is citrus and a bit of stone fruit, edged by a honey-comb confection. But this is beautifully complemented by the Sémillon’s tanginess and lip-smacking fresh astringency. Interesting is that while the Môreson Premium Chardonnay is still showing a bit of toasty wood, the Knoputibak was as wood-free as the male ward of and old-age home on prostate examination day.
Besides the pure visceral sensual appeal, this wine has a structure characteristic of the Môreson range. From nose, attack to finish, the wine is in total harmony without an off-centre note. No alcohol burn. No clumsy bitterness on the mid-palate as a result of impatient racking. Just a gorgeous glass of white wine to enjoy and to love.
Knoputibak. As we Dutchman say in Afrikaans: Hier kom ‘n ding. And I’ll sommer score it 991/1000.
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