DRINK LIGHT FOR SUMMER
A LOVE AFFAIR WITH CABERNET FRANC WAS TAKEN TO ANOTHER LEVEL BY SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PRODUCER LAVINIA ESTATE
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.