Red wines that carry a Bordeaux label are required by the rules of our Appellation to contain only specific red grape varieties. The two most grown varieties in Bordeaux are Merlot – the dominant grape variety on the so called “right bank” (ie on the eastern or right hand side of the river Garonne, including the areas of St. Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac, Entre Deux Mers) and Cabernet Sauvignon which finds greater favour on the left bank including Graves and the Médoc.
The “big two” make up 85+% of the total Bordeaux red grape vineyard planting and a dominating 70% of the total Bordeaux acreage. Bordeaux is very much red wine country! But there is a secret third and very important red grape variety that often gets forgotten. And that third grape, whilst often not talked about, is often very critical to the final wine composition and taste. Number Three is of course Cabernet Franc.
When I talk (and taste) with a number of my Bordeaux wine-producing colleagues, they are always very quick to point out the relative percentages of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in their wine blends. But the difference that Cabernet Franc can and does make is subtle and significant. In many blends I have tasted – particularly in the challenging 2013 vintage – Cabernet Franc is the critical difference. Because it adds in that extra something that the “big two” don’t have, namely finesse and subtlety on the nose plus the trademark secret of Cabernet Franc – its beautiful lingering slightly spicy aftertaste or length.
Despite more than 10,000 hectares under vine, 100% varietal Cabernet Franc is almost impossible to find in Bordeaux. This is a disappointment since the warmer climate of Bordeaux makes it a much better region for growing this variety than more northerly vineyards where one gets a greener, more acidic and less ripe taste to the fruit.
Which is why, at Paradise Rescued, we will always continue to produce our flagship 100% varietal Cabernet Franc. Whilst our current production quantities are tiny, there is no shortage of demand. Commencing with a small project this winter to extend the western end of the Hourcat Sud block in Cardan, we will continue to slowly and steadily increase our niche brand vineyard over time and grow our Cabernet Franc export business.
Bordeaux really shouldn’t hide its secret!