Over the years, South African winemaker, Henry Kotzé, has refined his winemaking mantra to one of minimal interference and maximal expression of variety by means of selecting the best terroir possible. Experience speaks for itself and Henry was appointed winemaker at Morgenster in 2009. Previously, Henry’s oenological skills were honed during his stints at Vergelegen, Boschendal, Neil Ellis and Eikendal (all highly acclaimed South African wineries.) Henry’s focus at Morgenster is on red wine where he works with the classical Bordeaux grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot) and Italian grape varieties (Sangiovese and Nebbiolo).

The first vines on the farm were planted in 1994 and the average age of the vineyards is 15 years. The grapes are usually harvested, depending on the fickle weather of course, late February. Average yield is 5.5 tonnes per hectare and juice yield is 700 litres per tonne.

Now, let’s get started with the winemaking section of this blog. This is what Henry had to say: “As the grapes are destemmed and crushed (about 10% is whole bunch pressed), I’ll add an Enartis red wine enzyme for colour extraction. Cold soaking is done for two to four days at less than 10°C. Only one pump-over a day is needed and this is done slowly and gently, to facilitate maximum extraction.” As he says this, he glances longingly at his mud encrusted mountain bike and then back to me. I realise that he’s probably very busy and has not been getting a lot of sleep (the plight of every winemaker!), so I hurry on with my questions. As for the Bordeaux varietals, Henry elaborated about two of his favourite yeasts: “I inoculate Anchor NT 202 and Anchor WE 372 (Oenobrands) at 15°C. NT 202 has always been a stalwart and works well with the wine style that we like to embrace at Morgenster. It is also easy controllable with temperature alterations.

As for WE 372, it is a slower fermenter which really enhances the varietal character of the grapes I am working with. WE 372 makes a particularly powerful contribution towards red berry and fruity aromas when I’m working with Merlot. For my Italian varietals, I use selected Lallemand yeasts. A typical fermentation is done at 26 to 28°C for seven to ten days. I also use a lot of oxygen during fermentations for maximum colour extraction. As an activator I use Laffort Dynastart and Anchor Nutrivin (Oenobrands) and DAP during fermentation.” Henry also formed part of a group of winemakers in South Africa who tried the new Anchor NT 202 Co-Inoculant MLF starter culture (Oenobrands) in 2011.

He says: “I tried the Co-inoculant on a batch Petit Verdot this vintage and was pleasantly surprised with the results, since MLF took only 14 days to complete after AF finished. This usually takes three to five weeks. I usually inoculate all my red wines with Lallemand bacteria, but intend to use the Co-inoculant again next year and in bigger amounts.” Henry explains post-AF as follows: “Extended maceration on skins can last a few days or up to two weeks. After MLF, the wine is racked and three rackings are done during 18 months of barrel ageing. Beta-glucanase (Enartis) is used during ageing.

Optimal filtering would be done with a 1.6 micron candle filter, but where VA is 0.6g/L or higher, I will use a 0.45 micron candle filter.” Henry has his wine bottled during December and January after which it is released three years later. As for the premium Morgenster wines, expect to pay US $69 and US $33 for the Lourensriver Valley range.

Bernard Mocke is a technical Consultant for Anchor Wine Yeast.