“Have a Cabernet Franc” is good advice, even if your name isn’t Frank. After only arriving on South African soil in the late 1970’s, the varietal has spent quite some time filling its traditional role as it does in Bordeaux: giving wine blenders something to go to every time their creations were missing a little something, whether it be a little bit more fruit or a dash of spice.
Luckily for us today, some South African winemakers saw a lot more potential than that.
The first single varietal Cabernet Franc was produced in 1988 by Warwick Estate under Trailblazer Norma Ratcliffe. A few estates followed suit, but it has only really been in the last ten years that Cabernet Franc has begun to come into its own.
Head of the Judging Panel at the 2017 Cab Franc Challenge (at which 14 out of the 50 entrants were deemed to be of Gold Medal Standard) Cape Wine Master Christine Rudman reported a 38% increase in the number of South African Cabernet Francs over the last five years.
This explosion of growth has led to some wonderful wines leaving the cellar to wow the world, such as a 2014 single varietal expression called & The Cab Franc; from Neil Verberg and Brian Smith in Botrivier recently valued at R5,000 a bottle.
Cabernet Franc delivers a rare combination of fruit, spice and herbaceousness on the nose while the palate can accommodate a wide range of flavours, thanks to the structured tannins.
It truly deserves to be known as the French Grape; as it has all the spice of Rhône, the balletic balance of Burgundy and the structure of Bordeaux all in one. But you don’t have to go all the way to France to get it! South Africa boasts some exceptional expressions of this wonderful wine so make sure to ask for it the next time you’re at a farm, wine shop or cellar.
Or if you’d like to explore a little more, come and taste a galaxy of stellar wines in WINEderland at the TOPS AT SPAR Wine Show presented by the Independent on Saturday from 3 to 5 May at Suncoast.
Among countless other delicious wines on show Zorgvliet’s Cabernet Franc will be available for tasting and it’s an absolute corker.