As impressive as Morgenhof Estate’s near 120-year history is, the history of its owner is truly remarkable.
Anne Cointreau, great great granddaughter of Adolphe Cointreau who founded the world famous orange liqueur with his brother Edouard-Jean in Angers, France in 1849, can trace her family history as far back as 1210! Interestingly, the brothers originally made a cherry liqueur, before using bitter orange peels in pure alcohol to produce what would become their most famous and unique product. Her family lives in Cognac and still owns, Gosset Champagne, Vedrenne Liqueurs and Cognac Frapin.
Anne first came to South Africa in 1992 and fell instantly in love with Cape Town and Morgenhof in particular. She bought the farm in 1993 and set about re-establishing it as a leading estate. The original farm had been
sub-divided and she bought two of the sub-divisions bringing the total acreage to 212 hectares of which 74 are now under vines.
With such a strong history in the wine and liqueur industries, it would have been understandable for Anne to bring in a large French broom and sweep in a new Gallic era of wine-making in South Africa. To her credit though she decided that, when in South Africa, do as South Africans do, and has largely continued the tried and tested South African way. She is a strong traditionalist though and believes firmly in a terroir-driven product so has replanted most of the estate using cultivars more appropriate to the specific soil types, slope aspects and prevailing winds. The farm rises from 65m above sea level to 450m and offers great variety and choice in terms of cultivars to grow.
Another of Anne’s significant choices was not to irrigate her grapes. This ‘dry land’ farming contributes to the quality and concentration of the fruit.
While vineyard manager Pieter Haasbroek may sometimes age more quickly during dry times, the quality of grapes (of which only the very best of the best are harvested) he is able to produce for wine maker Jacques Cilliers, contributes significantly to the excellent classical, elegant style of wine made on the farm. This excellence is recognised by the many awards and medals won by Morgenhof in South Africa and around the world.
Their flagship wine is undoubtedly the Morganhof Estate – a Bordeaux blend described as having, “Full ripe flavours of black berries, prune & black cherries that entice you on the nose. These intense flavours follow through to the layered and complex palate with added hints of dark chocolate and mixed spice. The tannins are fruit driven and supple.”
There are two keys to success that Anne has instilled in her small but dedicated team, most of whom have been with her since she bought the farm: passion for wine and strong relationships and values by which everyone on the estate is appreciated and feels they are an intrinsic, vital member of the team.
Anne Cointreau was the first French person to invest in the pre-democracy South African Wine Industry in 1993, having recognised and celebrated the new direction taken by the country. She has taken a once barely-known farm and built it into a successful and respected wine producing estate. She has received much recognition and been voted one of the top 40 women entrepreneurs in the world by the Star Group in the USA in 2001. She sits on the Harvard Business School’s Women’s Leadership Board and in 2002 was a finalist in International Business Women of the Year. In November 2005 she was awarded the very prestigious Legion d’Honneur by the French Government for her business interests in South Africa.
But a proud 700-year heritage is a substantial ule by which to measure achievement and Anne says the estate still has a long way to go before it meets her satisfaction.
Which can only be good news for wine-loving Capetonians!
Driving through the gates at Morgenhof, visitors feel an immediate ‘comfortableness’ with the farm. It is a dynamic work in progress not a static dry and dusty museum.
The purpose-built tasting room offers an educational as well as a fun experience. A display shows all the cultivars of grape on the farm and the specific soils in which they grow. There is another display of most of the different sizes of wine bottles on the steps leading into the underground octagonal cellar. Completed in 1995, it covers 1 250 square metres and was the first traditional underground red wine maturation cellar in the country and remains one of only six in the world! The red wines are aged in Barrique (225 litre) French oak barrels.
Visitors may look around the mostly original farm buildings and Manor House or relax under the huge oaks.
The Morgenhof Restaurant complements the estate wines and offers a variety of lovely salads - including the famous Morgenhof chicken salad - as well as inspiring country-style dishes, wonderful cheese boards and delectable desserts. The Dame Jeanne Coffee Shop serves a variety of breakfasts and delicious homemade cakes and scones.
Guests may also order the re-instituted and popular picnic lunches and enjoy them in the picturesque gardens.
Morgenhof also caters for weddings, functions, conferences and seminars and can use different venues on the farm to accommodate parties of up to 150 people.
A special mention needs to be made of another of Morgenhof’s innovations which will appeal to the consumer and corporate markets alike. They have introduced a Wine Blending Experience during which winemaker Jacques will discuss the wines, explain the blending process and then allow the guests to blend their very own wine! Not only can they take home a labelled bottle of their wine but Jacques, Pieter, marketing manager Helga and Chief Operating Officer, Lee-Anne Bosman will judge all the blends and present a special award to the best blend of the day!
This is a very exclusive opportunity for a more cerebral team-building exercise that certainly stands out from virtually every other similar exercise. It can also be a great experience for a family or group of friends and bestows serious bragging rights upon the winner!
The Wine Blending Experience must be booked by contacting Helga or Lee-Anne, who has been part of Morgenhof for 17 years! She began as a waitress while studying psychology at Stellenbosch before becoming a part- and then full-time wine tasting host. From there she progressed to driving sales and exports and eventually was appointed by Anne, who still enjoys a very hands-on approach to running the estate, as her COO.
Lee-Anne is the perfect example of the importance of family Anne has introduced into every facet of the estate and no one is better suited than Lee-Anne to ensure that feeling is passed on to visitors in the day-to-day management of the estate. She leads what must be one of the friendliest most approachable teams in the winelands.