For those of you who regularly check this blog and read posts, you know my affinity for Cabernet Franc. So much so, that I call it by its moniker: Big Daddy.
It’s amazing how many people don’t know that Cabernet Franc (along with Sauvignon Blanc) is the parent to Cabernet Sauvignon. All these years, Franc has taken a backseat to his more famous son, watching in the wings while the famous offspring has been planted all over the world, in regions well-known, and made into world class wine by iconic producers. Today however, this humble daddy has been slowly rising in importance, making waves in parts of the world where it’s always been famous, and other places where it is moving from a blending grape to the undisputed star of the show.
A traditional grape is defined as being somewhere for 500+ years, as opposed to an international grape – one that is grown all over the world in every region that grows grapes. Cabernet Franc can absolutely take its place as a traditional grape; making its home in Italy, (mostly) in the northern regions of Friuli Venezia-Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige, adapting to the terroir of the cooler northern regions; but also moving towards prominence and tradition in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany not only in the blends of some famous Super Tuscans, but also as a single varietal wine being made by such iconic producers as the Antinori family and Le Macchiole.
It is in France though, in the regions of Chinon and Bourgueil of the Loire Valley, where Cabernet Franc has been grown and made into wine for years, the true home of Big Daddy, and where some truly amazing examples have been made.
Domaine Olga Raffault, in the landscape of Chinon, is a producer spanning four generations of Cabernet Franc excellence. Like other lady proprietors before her, her husband was taken much too early, making her solely responsible for the estate, along with being a mother to two small children. Hard work, dedication, determination, and help from a German friend, kept this estate running and continuing to grow grapes, harvest them, and make wine. Today, the estate is managed by Olga’s granddaughter Sylvie, along with her husband Eric. They are combining the perfect blend of tradition and modernity to create wines of epic proportion.
From the Les Picasses vineyards, located in the Savigny-en-Véron village, the 60-year old vines are very much at home on the limestone rich soils. It is these soils that help to create an age-worthy wine rich in minerality and soft tannins. The grapes are harvested by hand, then fermented with only indigenous yeasts. Very much a “hands-off” approach, the wine is left in large barrels for up to 14 months and bottled unfiltered, then left in the bottle for additional ageing.
This wine was tasted upon opening, giving aromas and flavours of ripe green pepper, pencil shavings, mulberry and hints of licorice and pepper. I was told that more fruit would emerge with ageing, which seems backwards, but in tasting this wine, I would agree. The limestone soils is immediately evident with huge minerality notes like wet rock or metal shavings, but I would be confident in saying that not only would this wine morph in the glass while drinking it, but with a decant, trying it again the next day, or two or three; and yes, with even more age like 20-30 years, the true personality of this wine would most assuredly come shining through!
Big Daddy does it again…we shouldn’t be surprised.