(2015) Cabernet Franc is the great red wine grape of Bordeaux's 'right bank' as well as the Loire Valley in France, and yet it is a variety that does not always travel well, finding nothing like the global popularity of its cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon. And yet when it is ripe and made well it offers a wonderful combination of full-fruited richness and an energised, lively personality. This is a terrific example of that, ripe and sweetly packed with blackcurranty fruit, yet so agile with its cherry and raspberry lick of red fruit acidity, svelte tannins and sappy and refreshing edge.
Like an excellent Loire red (or even a fine Cru Beaujolais in some ways), but with the dial turned up to 11. Watch the video for my full review and for specific food matching suggestions.
(2015) The Casablanca Valley is the longest established of Chile's recognised cooler climate regions, but Syrah is not the variety that springs to mind as a Casablanca speciality. There is a lovely purity about this wine, certainly a Syrah at the floral and perfumed end of the spectrum, a hint of freshly laid tar, balsamic notes. 65% ageing in oak adding gloss and smoothness, the palate rich with black fruits, all very silky, very seductive, and nicely balanced too. A most impressive wine. £8.25, The Wine Society.
(2013) 1380 GDD with a diurnal range of 16.5ºC. 14% ABV, this comes from further inland and a warmer climate, but quite similar granite hillside soils. A higher proportion of new oak is used. It is more earthy and vegetal, with real Pinot mushroom and truffle. It is big and quite grippy and structured stuff on the palate, spicy, with a firm grip to the tannins and that earthy, vegetal dryness. Quite fine tannins but dry, and a slightly less elegant but good expression of Pinot.
(2011) 14% abv, Screwcap. A bold and creamy black fruit nose, with a lovely little lift of flowers and herbs, really suggesting the Pinot here is ripe and pure. The palate has very nice juiciness and bold, chocolate-ripe tannins, with plenty of cherry-fresh acidity and a long, liquorice-tinged finish. A fairly big and chunky rendition of Pinot, but a good one.
(2010) Very smoky, with a bit of bacon-fat smokiness and earthiness. Made with oak chips and staves. Ripe black fruit beneath. The palate has very good black fruit sweetness, with a little mushroom and truffle character. There is a nice liquoricy acidity and tannin that adds some pleasant rusticity to this. A fine, big, fruity and hearty mouthful of wine this - I wish the smokiness could be reined back slightly.
(2010) Forty percent aged in barrel, and little touches of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in the blend. The bold, blue-black fruitiness of this comes through much more confidently, though the smoky quality is there, it is much more in the background. There's an element of vanilla here too. On the palate this has smooth tannins, more plush mouth-feel and deep berry fruits. There's a touch of mocha and an expansive finish. Good acidity and balance.
(2010) 10 months in a mix of sizes of French oak barrels, with cold soaking. Very careful grape selection. Nice, tight, dusty black fruit with some elegance. A touch of herby, earthy character. Nice fleshiness and richness, the sweet fruit with a really good edge of tart cherry skins. Good balance and a little savoury complexity.
(2010) Cold maceration after fermentation then 14 months in American oak. "After 14 months American oak is really gentle in tannins." Nice, ripe, blueberry and black skinned plum and damson fruit. Real bite on the palate, with a lovely edge of acidity and very firm tannins. It has plenty of pepper and spice and a lovely cool-climate grip and focus.
(2010) Hugely fragrant, incense-like, with some sage and marjoram notes and toasty, earthy, undergrowth notes. The fruit on the palate has plenty of sweetness and elegant raspberry and redcurrant poise, excellent freshness with lithe, but grippy tannins and fresh, quite citrusy acidity.
(2010) This has tiny proportions of Viognier, Merlot and Syrah in the blend too, though the nose is classic, earthy Pinot, with a touch of mushroom and truffle, soft red berry fruit and something quite sappy. On the palate there is a nicely rounded fruit quality, but that green-tinged, sappy character continues with some savoury, cedary notes and plenty of crisp tannin and acid to give it real bite through the finish. A nicely-pitched style, with a bit of complexity.
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