The. Cabernet Franc 2015

By , 28 November 2019



Definite article.

For the launch of the. Cabernet Franc 2015, the second vintage of the top-end offering from Brian Smith of Elgin Ridge and Niels Verburg of Luddite, guests were invited to blind-taste a flight of three wines, one being Chateau Cheval Blanc 2015 from Saint-Émilion and the other two being the 2014 and 2015 vintages of the Smith/Verburg wine.

Smith and Verburg, who have capped production at 75 12-bottle cases, sell their wine for R5 000 a bottle. The Cheval Blanc, meanwhile, would set you back some R15 000 a bottle. One of the motivations for this project is to address the “country discount” that applies to South African fine wine. “If we can’t get the price of SA fine wine up, then we won’t have an industry in 20 years’ time,” asserts Verburg. “Or we will but the only vineyards that are around will be those cropping 20 to 30 tons per hectare.”

At the outset, a vague sense of anxiety that it would not be possible to tell the Bordeaux from the South African wines but in the end, it was quite clear which was which, the CB very luxuriously styled, which is to say “plush” and the. with some trademark SA “green” character. Tasting notes and ratings as follows:

the. Cabernet Franc 2014
Grapes from Beaumont in Bot River. Red and black berries, some leafiness, earth and attractive oak on the nose.  Good fruit concentration, fresh acidity and firm but fine tannins. Full bodied but balanced, the finish long and dry. Two years in bottle since launch, this is resolving very nicely.

CE’s rating: 94/100.

the. Cabernet Franc 2015
Grapes from Gabriëlskloof in Bot River. Violets, red and black berries, fresh herbs and attractive oak on the nose. The palate shows luscious fruit and quite soft, fine tannins – more polished than the 2014 but perhaps less age-worthy.

CE’s rating: 92/100.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 2015
What to say about this? Composed of 54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Franc, the Chateau considered the vintage so good that they opted not to dispose of any fruit in their second wine and it is much lauded with scores in the late-90s from senior critics around the world. On the nose, plenty of oak-derived notes included pencil-shavings, vanilla and chocolate. The palate is extraordinarily rich with plenty of dense fruit and very, ripe smooth tannins. With time in glass, the true depth and detail of the wine is revealed.

CE’s rating: 95/100.

Find our South African wine ratings database here.

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2 comment(s)

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    Eli | 29 November 2019

    I applaud them trying to uplift the image and price of SA fine wine, but there are so many guys making approachable 92 point plus scoring wines at sub R300. Duwweltjie, Craven, Kottabos just to name a few.

    Different styles of wine I know, but what will motivate people to pay R5k a bottle if the quality is not world class? In saying that I hope the. becomes a massive success.

      Christian Eedes | 29 November 2019

      Hi Eli, At public tastings over the years, I’ve encountered many expressions of disbelief at the huge price differential within wine and more often than not it comes from the guy with a R50 000 watch on his wrist…

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