Last night a vertical of Raats Family Wines Cabernet Franc from the maiden 2001 through to the not yet released 2010. “You need 10 vintages of more or less consistent quality before you can say you’ve established a brand,” reckons owner and cellarmaster Bruwer Raats. “This tasting is in a way daunting and in another way exciting”.
Raats is convinced that Cabernet Franc’s true home is the Loire rather than Bordeaux and favours the elegance of the former region’s wines over the relative power of the latter. His vineyards are planted on decomposed dolomite granite, which are low in potential and well drained facilitating optimal ripeness and freshness. “Very often in South Africa Cabernet Franc is planted on sandstone soils which are too fertile – you get excessive vegetative growth and the end-wines end up high in alcohol yet still green.”
For all Raat’s preoccupation with elegance, I preferred the slightly warmer vintages – 2003 and 2005 – as these wines seemed to have more heft without forsaking finesse. That said, 2009 which is being billed as one of the Cape’s greatest vintages ever, is truly something special (still available at R319 a bottle).
Scores and brief tasting notes as follows:
Subtle oak and pleasant herbaceous notes on the nose. An elegant wine with red and black fruit, fresh acidity and fine tannins. Clean and pure, relatively austere. Long, dry finish.
Dark fruit and pencil shavings on the nose. Rich and intense but balanced. Extremely primary with fresh acidity and firm but fine tannins. Serious and demanding.
Red fruit on the nose and palate. More medium bodied with good freshness and fine tannins.
Herbal notes and dusty oak on the nose. The palate shows red fruit, slight green quality, tart acidity. Relatively lean.
Wild, rather savoury notes on the nose and palate. Lacks precision of later vintages.
Red and black fruit, pencil shavings, spice and fynbos on the nose and palate. Good concentration, fresh acidity, fine tannins. Sweet-fruited and relatively plush. Shows pleasing development. Drink well now.
Fynbos and pencil shavings on the nose. Relatively slight on the palate with red fruit flavours and bright acidity.
Shy nose. Medium- to full-bodied with red and black fruit as well as some pleasant age-derived savoury character. Fresh acidity and fine tannins. Long, dry finish. Intricate and poised.
Wild and showing pronounced development. Rich and broad. Juicy fruit, soft tannins.
Shy nose. Dark fruit on the nose and palate. Relatively full bodied with firm but fine tannins. Long, dry finish. Still surprisingly youthful.