the. Cabernet Franc

the. Idea  |  the. Collaboration  |  the. Benchmark

the. Cabernet Franc

Can South Africa produce a world class Cabernet Franc, capable of holding its own against the best of the Loire? Two South African winemakers said yes – and then they set out to prove it. This is the. story.

the. story starts in 2013, when Niels Verburg of Luddite Wines in Bot River and Brian Smith of Elgin Ridge Wines in the Elgin Valley met for lunch at Terroirs, just off Trafalgar Square in London.

As was the custom when these two great friends and “regional neighbours'” get together, the lunch started early and finished late. This particular catch up, however, would forever be marked as the beginning of something quite exceptional. Whilst drinking a Cabernet Franc from the Loire, they hatched the idea of producing a world class South African Cabernet Franc.

“We can produce a far better wine than this” one stated, referring to the bottle of Saumur Champigny they were drinking, and thus began the collaboration and creation of the.

It was a journey that started with a rather interesting challenge. Neither Elgin Ridge nor Luddite had plantings of the varietal. Niels proved resourceful and sourced grapes from a neighbour and a tonne of their finest Cabernet Franc was secured for the. 2014 vintage.

These grapes were harvested on the 17th March 2014 at 23.4 balling, de-stemmed and allowed to cold macerate in a small, open fermenter for three days, until natural fermentation started. Twice-daily punch downs extracted colour and tannin, ensuring a balanced structure and fruit core.

After 16 days on the skins, the wine was gently pressed and fed into barrels, where malolactic fermentation took place. Élevage took place in three French Barriques – new, second fill and third fill. Prior to bottling, the three barrels were blended and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon was added to give support to the wine’s backbone.

the. first vintage of just 900 bottles was released in September 2018, in elegant three-bottle wooden presentation cases. Niels and Brian added a touch of their personalities as a “serving suggestion” too – each case of the. has a bottle labelled ‘DRINK‘, ‘KEEP‘ and ‘SHARE WITH A FRIEND‘.