I was excited to receive a media article from one of our customers this week trying to guess the wine trends of 2016. It’s a fun thing to do in the first week of a new year, right? The interesting article shared with me was by BloombergBusiness entitled “Eight Ways Wine Will Change in 2016”. And point number two on their list for the year is: 2016’s Hot Grape will be….. Cabernet Franc – the “go-to” wine!
Seasoned fans and readers here will not be surprised with our excitement about that statement! But readers here for the first time may be scratching their heads somewhat? Why Cabernet Franc?
Bloomberg’s logic is impeccable – I think. But then Paradise Rescued is heavily biased making one of only a handful of 100% varietal CabFranc wines in the complete Bordeaux wine metropolis. The idea that Cabernet Franc is well overdue for promotion seems completely natural to me. It is a highly underrated varietal grape.
Over the last twenty five years, the wine world has become a more global trade, featuring international brands, more points ratings with a strong focus around riper fruit – hence lower acidity – plus a greater voice from new world wines. The world is also getting warmer, which is further increasing grape ripeness, sweetness and alcohol levels but an increased homogeneity of taste. And the cliamte change issue has created unlikely new wine regions – witness the recent success from the south of England.
As consumers gain more knowledge about wine and experience different wines and varieties, the pendulum is starting to swing back again towards wines that have more moderate alcohol levels and greater expression of their vineyard origins. Drinkers are now starting to explore wines that are less standardised, requiring better overall winemaking combined with slightly lower grape sugar levels and ripeness.
Enter stage left to applause: Cabernet Franc! France is one of the leading world producers of Cabernet Franc, although in many cases you wouldn’t know it because of that country’s traditional appellation system of labelling which requires no mention of the grape varieties making up the contents. It is probably best known in France in the Loire Valley, although it makes up nearly 10% of Bordeaux red wine production and is a major player in the Roussillon region.
Cabernet Franc is a rising star in several wine regions of the USA, Chile, Argentina and South Africa. And why wouldn’t it be? It makes less heavy bodied red wines that are generally very fragrant, expressive, sometimes herbal or spicy in nature with excellent acidity, which makes them wonderful partners with food.
In Bordeaux I see two opposing trends with respect to Cabernet Franc. For the last number of years, the area of CabFranc plantings has been falling in favour of more Merlot, which usually has a higher yield, ripens earlier and is more capable of producing a closer Bordeaux approximation of a new world “full red wine”. In other words, chasing the trend…
At the top high quality end of Bordeaux, I am hearing about a change in the other direction. As the climate continues to heat up, some winemakers are looking to halt the continuing increase in alcohol levels and reduced acidity. Cabernet Franc is the solution to that issue and plantings at select chateaux are rising again.
They will also find another wonderful surprise. Increasing Cabernet Franc will give their mythical Merlot CabFranc blends an additional boost in perfume, flavour, complexity and length.
Cabernet Franc is set to be not only the “go-to” wine of 2016 but many a year (or ten) to come. Stay posted: Paradise Rescued is on this trajectory too.