Thursday, April 12, 2012
Cabernet Franc to become Orange’s calling card . . .
Well, I might be overstating the case, but the most impressive red wines I tried while in Orange over the Easter long weekend were all Bordeaux varieties with Cab Franc in the mix. The standouts were -
2006 Bloodwood Maurice – A Cab Sav that included some Cab Franc pressings in the blend
2008 Canobolas Smith Alchemy – a blend of Cab Sav, Cab Franc, and Shiraz
2009 Phillip Shaw No. 17 – 50% Merlot, 40% Cab Franc, 10% Cab Sav
2010 Ross Hill Cabernet Franc – 100% Cab Franc
I was keen to focus on the region’s red wines while there and get a sense of where things sit. I have a reasonable appreciation of Orange whites, in particular Chardonnay. Moreover, if you put a gun to my head and asked me to choose a New World Sauvignon Blanc to drink I would actually choose Orange as my go to region. On the other hand I haven’t had too many standout Orange reds. In fact I have had plenty of disappointing red wines from Orange over the years. More recently wine critic, Gary Walsh, made the comment that the region’s reds were a contender for the wooden spoon in Australia. Perhaps a bit harsh, but similar thoughts had crossed my mind.
A few days in the region gave me a more concentrated crack at the regions red wines. As a result I’m much more positive and optimistic than I was, particularly when it comes to Bordeaux varieties. The above 4 wines I have highlighted, across 4 different vintages and 4 different winemakers, demonstrate to me that there is potential greatness in the region’s reds. These are wines of character and interest that will almost certainly age well. Perhaps significantly, these four wineries represent some of the oldest wineries in the region, and hence have had time to get things right. They are not however, in the majority, and there are undoubtedly broad issues of site and clone selection, vine age, and winemaking experience that hinder quality more generally, but another decade may well do wonders for the overall quality emanating from Orange.
Can Bordeaux blends or indeed Cab Franc itself become a calling card for the region? I reckon the potential is there but it is probably not the easiest sell. Firstly Bordeaux blends are not exactly trendy in the Australian wine market, and secondly there seems to be an almost automatic association in Australia with cool climate regions and either Pinot Noir or Shiraz, not necessarily Cabernet. However, one only has to drink Domain A Cabernet Sauvignon or Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1, to know that our cool climate Bordeaux blends can be world class. Promoting and selling cool-climate Cabernets is not exactly a marketers dream (at least not in 2012), but I think it might be where greatness lies for red wines in Orange. A great conversation I had with Bloodwood winemaker Stephen Doyle, just reinforced this notion, and I will look at the Bloodwood story in some depth in a separate post.
Orange Cabernet . . . I’m not sure how easily it rolls off the tongue, but I certainly think it can roll generously down our palates if focus and attention is afforded this style in the coming years . . .