Cabernet Franc

The mystery of why so much Cabernet Franc is part of the great red wines of Europe became a part of my winemaking life some twenty-five years ago.

If it is so valuable a variety in Europe, then why is so little grown and used in Australia?

5,500 tonnes out of the 1,700,000 tonnes crushed (0.3%)

80 wineries out of 2,500 (and declining) use Cabernet Franc

Speaking of Barossa, the answers were simple:

  1. The winemakers knew little of its attributes so it wasn’t a popular grape
  2. As a consequence of (a) the prices paid for the grapes were quite low, so it was not popular with grapegrowers
  3. It basically was considered to be a “blender” not a varietal at the time from 1960 onward, and so was not considered when varietals became so popular
  4. With so little grown in Barossa and so little known, it just didn’t compete with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Mataro (Mouvedre).

This being so, what was it that made such a wide disparity of respect?

Starting our own wine business in Eden Valley and being naturally a curious person gave rise to researching this variety while our Chardonnay and Merlot were growing.

Why is the European usage of Cabernet Franc so high in so many wines:

  • La Fleur 50%
  • La Conseillante 45%
  • Chateau Vieux Certan 25-40% (year dependant)
  • Trotanoy 15%          “    “
  • Lafite 13%     “    “
  • Bahans Haut Brion 21%     “    “
  • Figeac 35%     “    “
  • L’Eglise Clinet 20%     “    “

What is it that they see and enjoy that we don’t?

Where does it grow in Barossa?  Are there differences from different areas?

Why is it so often used with Merlot?

Why is it so often used with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon?

What is the ratio that shows Cabernet Franc at its best?

What will that ratio do to the bouquet and what will it do to the taste?

Curiouser and curiouser it became.

So what to do?

While Merlot grew well in Eden Valley and our range of wines needed depth of style, why not find out for ourselves the answer to the mystery of Cabernet Franc.

And so it went.  Like so many other small wine ventures the answer lies within.

No seniors management to say no; no waste of time; no demand for it; not our role to create new wine styles; no just do your job and don’t worry about Cabernet Franc.

Let the trials begin!

Yes, the more we trialled the more we came to understand the sheer beauty that lies within Cabernet Franc.  The violets were the great surprise, as this is not really a vinous thing, but neither is the ripe strawberry lift in Pinot Noir.

A lovely surprise indeed to find violets amongst the characters on the palate as well.

Blended in different proportions with Merlot – large and then small until you find one which seems to suit best.  Then the worries start.

Just because I like it, will anybody else?

Is it anything like any of the known European wines?

Where can I get these European equivalent wines?

Should I just “wing it” or test it with others prior to market?

The end aim is obvious – you want to be on a winner that is different and enjoyable to many but in the end the decision is yours, and yours alone.

By doing the research, reading, tasting, understanding the traditional styles and the Cabernet Franc from as many makers as possible over quite some time gave a clear sense of direction.

However there still remained all the usual questions of positioning in price and in style; label and packaging; and distribution.

No use making great wine if it doesn’t sell, but you still have to ensure that your Cabernet Franc is the best you can possibly make.  Treat it like a champion.

So where does that get to with Marjico 2014 Cabernet Franc Merlot?

We believe that all the questions have been answered.  We are already getting requests for purchase months before the release, so this is most encouraging.

All we have to do now is to get MARJICO known as made by Marjorie and Jim Irvine and Marjico recognised as a truly lovely wine – scarce but worth discovery.

Only 300 dozen made.  Both 2014 and 2015 vintages available in six bottle cartons.

Welcome to a new name; welcome to a new style; and welcome to the discovery.

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