Life & Style Weekend - - FOOD & WINE - WORDS: TRAVIS SCHULTZ

With the warmer sum­mer months al­most upon us, those who pre­fer to im­bibe scar­let-coloured wines are gen­er­ally look­ing for lighter and less­ful­some spec­i­mens than the weighty and full-bod­ied caber­net and shi­raz that had been our win­ter sta­ple. And at least for me, the fore­bod­ing warmth of the Queens­land sum­mer nor­mally has me mov­ing bot­tles of pinot noir and mer­lot to the “drink­ing” shelves of the cel­lar. But not this year. What started as a furtive glance has be­come a swipe to the right and sud­denly I find my­self in­fat­u­ated to the point of ob­ses­sion. And the ob­ject of my af­fec­tion? Caber­net franc, of course. Long ago, while trav­el­ling through France, I dis­cov­ered the joy of Bor­deaux blends and the de­light­ful lifted flo­ral nose and sweet dark cher­ries that are the hall­marks of the style. And while caber­net franc makes up only a small pro­por­tion of most Bor­deaux blends, it con­trib­utes sig­nif­i­cantly to both body and fin­ish. When made as a sin­gle va­ri­etal, caber­net franc is gen­er­ally light or medium-bod­ied and al­most al­ways lively, fresh, fra­grant and acidic. Around the world, caber­net franc hasn’t been any­where near as suc­cess­ful as a sin­gle va­ri­etal as its off­spring, caber­net sau­vi­gnon, but when done well, it’s charm­ing and per­fectly suited for pair­ing with ca­sual bistro fare or even a Sun­day af­ter­noon bar­be­cue. Around Aus­tralia, wine­mak­ers have toiled with the va­ri­etal for decades. You’ll find it grown in re­gions such as north Tas­ma­nia, Mar­garet River, Barossa Val­ley, Yarra Val­ley and even the Coon­awarra. Pro­duc­ers such as Pen­ley Es­tate (Coon­awarra) and Punt Road (Yarra) have achieved in­cred­i­ble suc­cess with the style, but it was a Mclaren Vale pro­ducer whose franc re­cently took my in­fat­u­a­tion from ad­mi­ra­tion to ado­ra­tion. Lav­ina Es­tate is in South Aus­tralia’s Mclaren Vale and sources it caber­net franc fruit from lo­cal vine­yards. The Elicere Caber­net Franc isn’t made in big vol­umes. It’s en­chant­ing and el­e­gant. I had the priv­i­lege of sam­pling a ver­ti­cal trio of vin­tages but it was the 2014 that soon had me hum­ming the lyrics of an Ed Sheeran love song. Typ­i­cally aro­matic and per­fumed on the nose, the el­der­berry nu­ances ex­ert their in­flu­ence from the first sip be­fore spice-laden mul­ber­ries, cas­sis and ripe cherry char­ac­ters evolve through the mid-palate. But her se­duc­tive­ness is not just her fruit – it’s all about the weight, grace and acidic fin­ish of the wine. The fresh­ness of fruit lingers through the palate and lands with a sweet but per­haps mint-edged con­clu­sion. With such volup­tuous fruit and un­der­stated grace and poise, you’ll soon find your­self fall­ing in love with the Elicere’s body. It’s un­sur­pris­ing that this vin­tage has been an award win­ner on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions. So be warned: the Elicere might re­cal­i­brate your va­ri­etal pref­er­ences, and pos­si­bly even play cupid to your taste­buds. Travis Schultz is the prin­ci­pal of Travis Schultz Law but he has been moon­light­ing as a restau­rant re­viewer and wine writer for the past 15 years.

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