So today was my second and last day of vineyard touring here in Orange (start here for day one) and while I’ve got a ridiculously early 5:40am cab booked to get a ridiculously early flight back home, I wanted to quickly touch on one of the more interesting thoughts to pop up over the last 36 hours.
‘Get on the Franc train.’
That was the urging uttered by James Robson, proprietor of Ross Hill, during one of today’s winery visits.
James is trying to egg on Cabernet Franc, you see, carried by the belief that this variety is a star performer for the region.
I’d normally just assume that his words were excited winemaker chatter, but after tasting numerous parcels of Cabernet Franc – from both barrel and bottle – over the past day or two, I’m starting to wonder where I can get on such a train…
The appeal of Orange Franc, from what I can see, is that it provides a point of difference for the region. A USP. Further, it’s a variety that is quite widely planted, with plenty of established plots, and is already well used as a blending component in top Orange region wines.
In the right spot, and made in the right way, Franc can make wonderful wines too – like a firmer Chinon, the best local Cab Franc are deliciously spicy, faintly bitter, medium weight red wines that are right up at the pointy end of Orange deliciousness.
Indeed the only problem is that Franc is rarely isolated, often relegated to ‘support player’ behind varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon – which itself is more widely planted in Orange, even though it’s nowhere near as suitable (save for a few sites).
But that is changing. It’s still just a trickle, but if the straight Cab Franc I’ve tried today and yesterday from Philip Shaw, De Salis and Ross Hill all ends up as straight Franc wines, more people are going to be hanging out for the Orange Franc train too…
I’ll get around to writing up the wines and more over the coming days. But in the meantime I want to ask – would you buy an Orange region Cabernet Franc?
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I most certainly would. De Salis’s cab franc predominant St Em F would have to be my favourite wine, red or white, and the straight cab franc I got from them last year was beautiful. The Bloodwood cab francs or cab franc-malbecs over the years have also been of a very high standard. I recall Rhonda Doyle telling me years ago that her husband referred to it as “poor man’s pinot”. Even a relatively unheralded producer such as Boree Lane produces a straight cab franc that went down very well with a rack of lamb.