Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tinhorn Creek wins Cabernet Franc blind tasting


Cabernet Franc is a variety of rising importance in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys.

That prompted the British Columbia Wine Appreciation Society to put together a comparative blind tasting this week, pitting eight B.C. Cabernet Francs against four from elsewhere in the world.

The winner, by a wide margin, was the Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Selection Cabernet Franc 2010. Tinhorn Creek has been making Cabernet Franc since 1996 but this was the winery’s first reserve tier example.

With a few minor exceptions, no Cabernet Franc was planted in British Columbia prior to 1992. It has disappeared mostly into Meritage blends until recently, when we have begun to see more and more varietals released.

The 2011 vineyard census shows that there were 517 acres (209 hectares) of Cabernet Franc growing in BC, making in the number five red after Merlot (1,600 acres), Pinot Noir (949 acres), Cabernet Sauvignon (755 acres) and Syrah (545 acres).

A new census is expected to be done this summer. I think it will show that Cabernet Franc has moved ahead of Syrah. Growers have pulled out some Syrah because of issues with viruses and vine decline, and Cabernet Franc often is the choice to replace it.

This is confirmed by the 2012 British Columbia Wine Grape Crop Report. Cabernet Franc has moved into fourth place, in tonnage harvested, ahead of Syrah. The tonnage of Cabernet Franc that year was 1,371 compared to 1,327 tons of Syrah.

The reasons for Cabernet Franc’s rise:
  • Cabernet Franc is more winter hardy than Syrah.
  • Cabernet Franc ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • And Cabernet Franc, grown well, makes very interesting red wines.

It does reflect the terroir. The Ontario and the French wine in this tasting are from cooler terroirs than the others. There is 600 hectares of the variety in Ontario. In cooler terroirs, the vegetal side of Cabernet Franc tends to assert itself. As the results show, the palates of a Vancouver audience find riper wines from warmer climates more appealing.

It is an ancient variety with such a complex history that it is hard to say whether it originated in Spain of France. The only certainty is that it is the parent both of Cabernet Sauvignon and of Carmenère. It is the sixth most widely planted variety in France. It shins on its own in the Loire and is usually part of the blend in Bordeaux reds.

Here is how the tasters ranked the wine;

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield’s Selection 2010 ($34.99). Here are my notes when I reviewed this wine on its release last year: The wine begins with appealing aromas of vanilla, plum, black berry and black currants. There is a satisfying gob of sweet berry flavours on the palate – flavours of blackberry, raspberry, spice and tobacco. The finish just won’t quit. The wine is drinking well now but will age well for another seven years. 93.

Trapiche Broquel Cabernet Franc 2009 ($19). This was a bargain from Argentina. Personally, I think the group over-scored the wine but it is a pleasant bottle all the same.

Poplar Grove  Cabernet Franc 2009  ($34.90). Bold and ripe, this is a rich and satisfying wine with not a trace of Cabernet Franc’s feared veggie notes.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2011 ($33). Another bold and ripe wine in the classic Burrowing Owl style.

Perseus Winery Small Lots Cabernet Franc 2011 ($29.99). This is made with grapes from the Similkameen Valley. Another big, ripe red that I thought a delicious wine to drink.

Church & State  Cabernet Franc 2010 ($25 but sold out). The touch of mint on the nose reminded us this was a Cabernet Franc.

Hester Creek Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 ($28.95). A seductive wine. I scored higher than the group.

Cosentino Winery The Franc Cabernet Franc 2012 ($26.99). This California winery makes Cabernet Franc both from Lodi and Napa grapes. This is the Lodi version.

Fairview Cellars Cabernet Franc 2011 ($29.90). The winery makes about 300 cases a year and has a solid following for this varietal. The bad news is that a hailstorm slightly  reduced the winery’s Cabernet Franc yield in 2013.

Cassini Cellars Collector’s Series Cabernet Franc 2011 ($29). This is a brambly, spicy wine.

Vineland Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 ($40). I liked this wine better than the group. I think the notes of mint and red berries are typical Ontario Cabernet Franc.

Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon 2010 ($26.47).  This wine was an unexpected disappointment, marred by both excessive vegetal flavours and by a disturbing amount of brettanomyces.

1 comment:

curtis said...

Thanks for this great review/comparisson. It is interesting to note that the wines wit more Cabernet Francs and Chinon's main character, 'vegetal' as you say are lower down the list.
Most Chinon's I have ever had are better with decanting and at least 4 hours open. Drink a good bottle over 2-3 days and enjoy the evolution.