Cabernet Franc is probably not a common choice when someone asks, “what do you want to drink?” Here down-under in particular, our wine stores are dominated by Shiraz, Chardonnay and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (which is not the best Sauvignon Blanc available, nor the best value for money, nor the best value for money white wine coming from New Zealand… but more on that in other posts)
Cabernet Franc was actually crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to create the Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety, so it is a very old variety itself. Its spiritual home is France, as is the case with the majority of Australian varieties but it has not found itself a huge following here and is not commonly found on restaurant wine lists.
Tahbilk Cabernet Franc (2017 is the year reviewed here, but at the time of writing 2016 bottles were still available at the same price) is a cellar door exclusive. Priced at $18.95 ($17.05 for club members) it is not going to break the bank finding out if you like it or not and it is well worth a try as it is one of the highest scores the Walkabout team has ever awarded to a young red wine (above 95 points).
From the first pour, you sense there is something special about this wine. It just looks thicker than your average red wine, but the clarity has not been compromised at all. The deep red to purple colour is darker than many Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon wines and there is a sense of brilliance about what is in the glass.
The bouquet is instantly recognisable as Cabernet Franc (similar to Merlot in many ways) and has some reasonable force behind it. At this point, based on the colour and the nose, you are expecting a powerful wine…
The palate is more complex than first expected, with savoury but sweet (think capsicum or paprika) flavours coming through in waves. This wine is incredibly smooth; the downside to this being that it feels like there is a distinct lack of tannin and/or structure, yet somehow the wine manages to hold itself together for a very long and pleasant finish.
A final note about Tahbilk Cabernet Franc – it tastes a lot more aged than the label suggests. This is not a bad thing in itself, but it does suggest that long term cellaring may not be the best option. This is, in our collective opinion, a drink now wine.