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Raats Cabernet Franc 2001
Raats is truly a family operation, and the clan firmly believes that South Africa's proliferation of older Chenin Blanc vineyards provides a unique opportunity to craft terroir-driven wines that serve as international benchmarks for the varietal. Raats owns several hectares of estate vineyards in the Polkadraai Hills. In addition, they source Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc from several extremely low-yielding old vines parcels where Bruwer maintains complete control of viticulture. These sites are characterized by complex soils of sandstone and decomposed granite.
For Bruwer, the greatest part of crafting wines under your own label is that "you don't have to worry about shareholders or catering to a market, or to keeping within a cellar's style. You can have freedom of expression in something that you believe in." The Raats family continues to win over hordes of thirsty consumers worldwide with their passionate belief in the classic, versatile and decidedly stylish varietals of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
The South African wine renaissance is in full swing. Impressive red and white bargains abound. South Africa has a long and rich history considering its status as part of the “New World” of wine. In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century. Today, however, it is increasingly responsible for high-quality wines that are helping to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot, but the Benguela current from Antarctica provides the brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening. Similarly, cooler high-elevation vineyard sites offer climatic diversity.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for earthy, gamey reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following behind.
The subtler and more delicate of the Cabernets, Cabernet Franc is the proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon and shares many of the structural elements of Bordeaux’s cornerstone variety. In Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is often planted as an insurance policy against its later-ripening offspring, as it is more likely to thrive in a difficult harvest. But don’t mistake Cabernet Franc for merely a supporting player—this grape variety produces outstanding wines on its own or as the dominant component of a blend. It produces perhaps its most alluring wines in France’s Loire Valley, in the regions of Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny, where brighter, riper wines can be achieved. Outside of France, Cabernet Franc has performed quite well in parts of California, New York, and Virginia.
In the Glass
Paler, lighter, crisper, softer, and much more aromatic than its progeny, Cabernet Franc typically tastes of red raspberries, cherries, and herbs, with a stunning perfume of violets, tobacco, and spice.
Mouthwatering acidity makes Cabernet Franc an incredibly food-friendly wine, helping to cut through the richness of fatty meat dishes. It especially shines in tandem with lamb, and its affinity for the spice cabinet allows it to pair perfectly with Chinese dishes prepared with Szechuan pepper and five-spice.
Under-ripe Cabernet Franc can be leafy and green with harsh tannins and mouth-searing acidity, so it is best to avoid highly spiced curries and fiery chili dishes.