Ian Hollick, Hollick Wines, SA

Name: Ian Hollick

Misunderstood Cabernet Franc shows great potential

In the Loire, Cabernet Franc is used to make lighter early maturing styles such as Chinon, and Anjou Villages. In Bordeaux perhaps the most revered, dominant Cabernet Franc wine comes from Cheval Blanc, but many Graves and St Emillon wines commonly have 15% or so of the variety in their blends. To my knowledge, none are made from 100% of the variety. Cabernet Franc is also widely planted in the south-west of France in the appellations of Bergerac and Madiran.

In Italy, Cabernet Franc can be found in the wines of Fruili, and it has been grown in Kosovo, Slovenia, Albania and Kazakhstan. In the New World, Cabernet Franc can be found in South Africa, California (where it is commonly used in the 'Meritage' blends), Argentina, New York State, Washington and New Zealand.

Wines from the variety tend to be light to medium body, with more perfumed fruit characters than Cabernet Sauvignon. My experience tells me that much of that perfume is lost if the variety is picked too late. In shaded canopies, it can also show herbaceous characters. It is therefore generally better used as a blending variety, where as little as a 5% Hollick's Coonawarra Cabernet Franc vineyard was planted in 1980 on 2.3 by 2m spacings (2173 vines per ha), and trained to a single wire bilateral cordon. The mature vineyard is mechanically trimmed prior to hand spur pruning, and the vines have been severely de-vigorated (average shoot length being just over 70cm) by between-row covercrops, and almost a complete lack of summer irrigation.

Berry size has been dramatically reduced along with average leaf area, resulting in concentrated fruit characters and almost always dense colour, and a lack of herbaceous characters. If picked early enough after full fruit colouration, perfumed fruit characters predominate.

Like most of the Cabernet Franc producers around the world, we choose to blend the variety with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, although a varietal wine was made in 2002.

Percentages of the variety in our Cabernet Sauvignon blend have varied, but our best wines have resulted from 5-10% of each of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Harvest dates are determined by sugar ripeness (about 13 Baume), full colouration and flavour peak. The wine is normally fermented with 726 yeast in open stainless steel fermenters, for seven days at 20-25°C. Ferments are pumped over twice daily.

Pressings are added back to the freerun wine, and it is matured in a range of barrels consisting of around 25% new, and 75% second and third use French and American oak, for 15 months. Soft Coonawarra tannins make the wine approachable on release with five to seven years cellaring potential. In the blend the Cabernet Sauvignon berry fruit flavours dominate, with plummy, soft Merlot and blackcurrant and sweet licorice aromas from the Cabernet Franc. I have always thought that Cabernet Franc adds to the structure of the wine as well, providing quite a firm backbone to the wine.

For too long Cabernet Franc, because of its relatively small areas planted, has been treated as the second cousin to other reds, where, if given priority, it can be a very useful blending variety.

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