Greg Sherwood MW: Cabernet Franc increasingly perceived more positively

By , 21 July 2022



How weather forecasts are depicted is changing…

The social media climate memes are certainly doing the rounds of late, but my favourite has to be the split screen picture of a weather map from the BBC dating back to the late 1970s or early 1980s, and on the other side, a heat summation map of the UK from the BBC from the past sweltering week in July 2022. The dated historical hot summer map has a smattering of 33s, 34s and even a few 35 degrees C temperatures complete with jolly styled, naïve little sunshine icons. On the other side, the modern-day heat map represents something terrifying that you might see in Mad Max movie explaining that death by heat stroke is almost certainly imminent.

Now, I’m not trying to go down the rabbit hole of climate change or global warming but simply highlight the changing mainstream representation of everyday risk and adversity that has amplified the national “panic culture” in the UK especially since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. As old timers are quick to point out, “We just called it summer whereas now, it’s called a climate crisis”.

There is of course no happy medium, because until Covid came around, talking about the weather among polite British social company was so common to the point of being a national pastime. But ultimately, the weather has now been joined by the “Covid conversation” that is perfectly acceptable to strike up with people you don’t know, in awkward situations, with your cab driver, your work colleague, or where you just need to make idle chat.

But the temperature analogy is also about perception and relativity. What has gone before and what is occurring now and how we used to react and how we react now are completely different. In the past weeks I have had the pleasure to host and be in the company of two massive personalities from two of the great wine families from the new world, namely Bruwer Raats and Adrianna Catena.

Bruwer Raats joined us in the UK after a rigorous tour of the Netherlands and made his first appearance in the London wine trade since late 2019. The occasion was based around both the launch of the new Eden High Density Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2021 and the Eden Cabernet Franc 2020 as well as the highly anticipated release of the declassified MR de Compostella in the form of the 2019 Raats Jasper Red Blend.

For Adrianna Catena, it was less of a trek, as the younger sister of Laura Catena, she actually lives in the UK in Kentish Town in London and is fully up to speed on the comings and goings in the fine wine world of London. But the commonality, of course, centred around the elegant, premium red variety Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc you might ask? Surely you mean Malbec, as the Catena Family have been global leaders in premium single vineyard Malbec since the early 2000s?

But Adrianna’s own vineyard project, El Enemigo is a more romantic winery vision at heart. The concept was born in September 2009 as Alejandro Vigil, the resident head winemaker for Catena and Adrianna Catena walked back from the Argentine Embassy in London, where her father Nicolas Catena had just received the Decanter Man of the Year Award in 2009. Adrianna, an Oxford University PhD qualified historian, and Alejandro, a soils engineer, spoke of their shared love of philosophy, wine and history – and so they decided to create some wines together as a reflection of this shared passion. Not that their respect for tradition means they stick within its limits, as following the status quo has never been El Enemigo’s intention.

Beginning in the early 2000s with a basic range of high quality single varietal wines made from Chardonnay, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, the range was soon joined by a prestige cuvée called the Gran Enemigo, which was fashioned around a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But now more latterly, the range has expanded again to include a three-wine reserve range of single vineyard, single terroir Cabernet Franc reds that all also include 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chacayes, the Agrelo, the El Cepillo and the Gaultallary represent the pinnacle of Cabernet Franc production in South America, and surely, along with producers’ wines like Bruwer Raats’s Raats Family Wines Cabernet Franc and his Raats Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc, must also be rated alongside a select few of the top Loire icon Cabernet Franc reds such as Clos Rougeard, Thierry Germain and Sylvain Dittiere.

My initial comment to both proprietors at the beginning of both tastings was that they must have been very brave to put so much time, energy and investment behind ranges of wines that relied so heavily on the Cabernet Franc “wow” factor. Not wanting to have a selective memory, this was not an easy variety to sell in the early 2000s or even post 2010, until finally something in the global wine tectonic plates shifted to open the door to Cabernet Franc at the top table, along with more commonly accepted Grand Vin varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

But thankfully we are in a new space and a new time where a new generation of wine drinkers have far fewer established preconceptions of what should and shouldn’t be good and what should be great. Their palates are open to advice, open to suggestions and their tastes are unshaped by past decades of what has come before. It is in this context that we are able to try and enjoy and reflect on top Cabernet Franc wines from around the world including the following:

Gran Enemigo Chacayes Cabernet Franc 2018, 13.5% Abv.

Dark, broody and deep black fruit aromatics with hints of blood orange, earthy black currant and a cool, sleek creamy texture with real finesse and elegance with lovely sweet fruited complexity. 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Gran Enemigo Agrelo Cabernet Franc 2018, 13.5% Abv.

Intriguing and exotic with fabulously perfumed aromatics red and black berries, pomegranates and red cherries and milk chocolate. Texturally sleek and dense but beautifully silky with a pronounced sapidity, cool creamy black berry fruits, hints of graphite spice and liquid minerality on the finish. Very classy. 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Gran Enemigo El Cepillo Cabernet Franc 2018, 13.5% Abv.

An expressive style with more exotic notes of inky black berry fruits, iodine, cedar spice and salty cassis. Full and mouth-filling, the texture is soft and chalky with graphite hints but ever so soft and voluminous… like stuffing your mouth with black cherry and cassis flavour cotton wool. Hints of creamy mocha choc spice add further interest. 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Gran Enemigo Gualtallary Cabernet Franc 2018, 13.5% Abv.

An incredibly intricate array of aromatics with saline black berry, kelp, iodine and hints of coffee beans and mocha spice. The wine combines plushness, freshness, voluminous weight with textural complexity and elegance combined with noticeable power and depth. Fabulous balance makes this a truly all-round great wine with class, pedigree and precision. Very special indeed. 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Not to be outdone by the Argentinians, Bruwer Raats’s fabulous new Eden Cabernet Franc 2020 was profiled in the UK for the very first time internationally and once again, laid down a solid quality benchmark to which all other South African producers will need to aspire to when it comes to Cabernet Franc.

Raats Eden High Density Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2020, 14% Abv.

The Raats Eden Cabernet Franc is always classical and impressively premium in feel and this 2020 is certainly no different. The aromatics are initially tight and compact at this embryonic stage of development before slowly blossoming into a pristinely pure, precise and wonderfully perfumed offering showing notes of violets, lilac, rose petals, pink musk, sweet sandalwood and subtle hints of crème de cassis, earthy mulberry and sweet vanilla pod spice. The palate displays an incredible tensile linearity together with fabulously compact, tight grained tannins and a sleek graphite laden minerality. This small production wine flaunts its premium pedigree, its supremely manicured textural elegance and effortless finesse to perfection. There is no mistaking that the high-density planting lends an extra dimension of intensity and concentration to the wine. Allow this wine a few more years in the cellar before enjoying over the next 15 to 20+ years. (359 bottles produced.) 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but sometimes, you just know it’s damn hot, and sometimes you just know a wine is simply spellbindingly awesome. These past weeks we have experienced both of these extremes in the UK!

  • Greg Sherwood was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and as the son of a career diplomat, spent his first 21 years travelling the globe with his parents. With a Business Management and Marketing degree from Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Sherwood began his working career as a commodity trader. In 2000, he decided to make more of a long-held interest in wine taking a position at Handford Wines in South Kensington, London and is today Senior Wine Buyer. He became a Master of Wine in 2007.


15 comment(s)

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    Thomas | 22 July 2022

    @BvR. An argumentum ad hominem is often the first kind of fallacy they teach you about if you study logic at University as it’s the most obvious.

    GillesP | 22 July 2022

    And what is wrong with so called ” Conspiracy Theorists”? People who have different views than the sheep majority and who dare to question the conformism we are fed on a daily basis by the mainstream media to brainwash us and impose their views to us. I am sorry I have a lot of respect for them.

      Thomas | 22 July 2022

      What’s “wrong” with them is just that: they are wrong. Facts are either true or they are false. There’s no third way.

        BvB | 22 July 2022

        And the fact is that these are all very interesting high scoring Cab Franc’s worth trying. Let’s focus on the wine here folks, not the humorous preamble. That’s what the article, written in a wine mag, is about….

        GillesP | 22 July 2022

        So what are facts defined by according to you?

    James O | 22 July 2022

    Thanks Greg for an interesting article. I must say that the main thrust did not strike me to be about conspiracy theories, and no doubt there are a lot of other, more appropriate, forums for those who are particularly excited by that aspect (rather than seeing the humour in the reference you made…). More germane to the matter at hand, given this is primarily a wine column: I’ve not previously found the high density Raats cab franc that compelling – but you have persuaded me to revisit!

    John | 22 July 2022

    But, Mr Sherwood, your use of the meme, and commentary on it, suggest very strongly that you think the link being made between the recent record temperatures in Europe and climate change is part of ‘panic culture’, rather than providing further evidence of the very real and increasingly imminent threat to the globe and wine regions in it.

    Thomas | 22 July 2022

    Hi Greg
    Please will you consider just a short postscript to this effect? There’s no shame in falling for fake news. But when you contribute to a publication like WineMag you do engage in journalism and I think that as a journalist it is incumbent on you to just set the record straight. We won’t think any less of you for doing so. Corrections are made all the time in journalism. Fake news and conspiracies are a real scourge of our time. Let’s all do our bit to combat this.

    Duncan | 21 July 2022

    Really interesting comments on cab franc, thanks.

    Regarding the ‘panic culture’ map, see

      Greg Sherwood MW | 21 July 2022

      Thanks Duncan. Interesting twitter thread there.

        Ben | 21 July 2022

        So Greg, will you rewrite your post given that you’ve clearly fallen for a conspiracy meme on social media? Or are you going stand by your public endorsement of it?

          Greg Sherwood MW | 22 July 2022

          I didn’t realise there was such a thing as a “conspiracy meme”… 😉
          I thought all memes, real or fake, were by their nature, made to poke fun at someone or something. It’s hardly news… so can’t really qualify as fake news… surely?

          What is real however is the ever growing “panic culture” in the UK… which has merely been exacerbated by the pandemic. Several mainstream news programmes even run features in the past weeks about the UK’s “panic culture”. The warrior nation turning into a bunch of worriers.

            Ben | 22 July 2022

            I realise it’s a bit embarrassing falling for fake news and then sharing it widely as (shaky) evidence to support your world view. But a quick mea culpa is perfectly fine, we’ve all been there.

            What is funny is that you used that fake meme (which was quite conspiratorial) as evidence for ‘what is real in the UK’. Have you ever questioned the other things you consider as evidence too?

              Thomas | 22 July 2022

              Ben, I am completely on your side of this debate (see my comment above). However because of the tone of your comment I think its unlikely that you’ll convince Greg to actually engage with what I consider to be an excellent point taken by you. I do appreciate that to an extent you were just meeting the tone of Greg’s reply which was itself a bit snarky. @Mr Sherwood, we are not calling for self-censorship. We value your view, we hope you value ours. I hope that you would be the last person to discourage debate and a robust exchange of ideas.
              Regarding climate change, I don’t think that relativity and perception play any part. Its cold hard science.
              Regarding panic culture, the topic seems laced with irony. A small subset out there who are “really concerned”, who think that this “panic culture” is “ever growing” and “a real problem”. But they seem to be the only ones who are worried. Begs the question: who is doing the panicking after all? Is there not a “panic culture” about “panic culture”?

                BvR | 22 July 2022

                @thomas @ben. What on earth are you on about. This is a piece about wine. Cab Franc if you didn’t notice. Greg used a meme to introduce the concept of changing perceptions over time. He could have used any meme, most of which you probably would not have agreed with it seems, but he chose this one as the timing was relevant. Your “view” about memes and culture is irrelevant and I’m not sure why Mr Sherwood would care for your view. I hope he doesn’t. If you were asked by Winemag to create some content and regale us all then maybe he, and the other readers would, but for now your segway into irrelevance in order to paint Greg in some bad light is rather shameful.

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