The appeal of cabernet franc

Author: John Fordham
Source: The Sunday Telegraph
Review Date: Oct 2011

BRIAN Croser believes he’s discovered Australia’s true home for growing cabernet franc.

Holding court at Sydney’s Quarter Twenty One, Croser proudly presented his latest super-premium Tapanappa red – 2007 Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc ($85) – and he used the opportunity to heap huge praise on the Whalebone vineyard he purchased at Wrattonbully a decade ago.

Just north of Coonawarra, the vineyard features cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot and cabernet franc. Croser quickly moved the conversation to cabernet franc, the variety that figures prominently in the classic red wines of Bordeaux.

“You learn a lot about a vineyard when you own it, not when you buy,” he remarked. “It’s my considered opinion that the vineyard presents the ideal terroir for cabernet franc to excel.”

He conceded that he’d misjudged the true appeal of cabernet franc for most of his winemaking life, which included creating one of Australia’s most revered brands, Petaluma, which he subsequently sold to Lion Nathan in 2002.

The 60 per cent merlot and 40 per cent cabernet franc combination provided Croser with the perfect framework to craft a stupendous wine. Its flavours are splendidly rich and elegant, with outstanding palate length.

So proud was Croser of his wine, he confidently presented it alongside Bordeaux’s redoubtable 2006 Chateau Ausone Grand Cru, which retails around $1400 a bottle. While the 55 per cent cabernet franc and 45 per cent merlot front-runner from France is indeed a very special wine, it was in no way superior to this Tapanappa newcomer.

“I never put my wines up against the French to show they’re better or similar,” Croser said. “It’s simply an intellectual examination to see if I’m on the right track.”

Other distinguished Tapanappa wines that reveal Croser’s brilliant craftsmanship are the Adelaide Hills-sourced 2008 Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay ($85) and 2008 Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir ($52) from the Fleurieu Peninsula.

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