Zorgvliet Cabernet Franc 2014


Price: R130 (as of April 2017)
Winery: Zorgvliet Estate
Varietal: Cabernet Franc
Wine Region: Banghoek, Stellenbosch
Country: South Africa


Quality: 17/20
Value: 4/5
Ponce Factor: Moderate
Occasion: When you’re not feeling brave enough for a Cab Sauv

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If you’re looking for an easy introduction to the Cab Franc grape, one couldn’t ask for a better Rand-to-Reward ratio than you’ll find on this Zorgvliet gem.
Like Marvel’s Black Widow, this wine is a vibrant, bright cherry red colour; sporting spectacular legs to boot.
The vanguard aromas carry lovely, open raw oak, herbal elements, rich cassis, cherries & sweet blueberries.
On the palate, there are some nicely concentrated berry fruit notes with pronounced blackcurrant acidity.
In characteristic Zorgvliet fashion, the suede-like tannins are more prominent than one might expect from a Cab Franc, but they’re very well-placed in the context of the full mouthfeel.
Tail lingers longer than a bookie at an IPL game.
While this is very ready to drink now, it will certainly soften a little further over the next 3-5yrs.

Fresh air does everyone good. Or does it?

The Cabernet Franc reviewed above inspired two very different sets of notes from me:
The first, immediately upon opening, read as follows:
“Oak and spice upfront. Bright red cherries, soaring clean acidity, More oak on the tail. Moderate length.”

About an hour later, I returned to the bottle to write the following:

“Fruit has emerged considerably. Red fruit presents now as riper deeper black fruit (cassis, and blueberries), oak in splendid balance with lingering fruit. Lovely balance and length.”

So what happened in that time? Why do I regularly experience more savoury elements blowing off a wine during the 30 – 60 minutes in the decanter? Why is fruit almost always more evident in a big red wine after some breathing time?
I like to think that I have the answers, but I would be amiss if I did not at least admit the possibility that I could, quite possibly be a deluded fool. It would be silly not to concede that the change could be occurring in my mind, rather than in the glass.

I would be amiss if I did not at least admit the possibility that I could, quite possibly, be a deluded fool.Han, while drinking solo

In the pursuit of truth…

But rather than wallow in self-doubt, I thought I would try a deliver a quantum of solace to the more scientifically-minded among us. Because, sure, there are hundreds of quick guides, “rules of thumb”, and “wine for dummies” pieces, telling you how long to let a wine breathe for… but there are very few people actually explaining the chemical processes unfolding when a wine breathes. Those that do try to explain it all either contradict one another outright, or spew the academic equivalent of Keanu Reeves riding a furry dolphin. To save you the trouble of deciphering one group from the other, I have simply made a short list of the theories that appear the most plausible in the sober light of day.

Evaporation: Alcohol is far more volatile than water, and so will evaporate more quickly. Some wines that may present as a little “hot” at first (where the scent of ethanol is too prominent to be pleasant), could become more accessible as alcohol blows off.
Other aromas such as gaseous sulfite residual may also dissipate with a little time in the decanter, which may explain why some more savoury, animalistic or smoky elements sometimes disappear over time (then again, sometimes they don’t).
Oxidation: There is a lot of talk about the role oxygen plays in softening tannins while a wine breathes, but the consensus amongst career alcoholics is that this will only really begin to produce a noticeable effect up to six hours after decanting. By which time, the effect of evaporation will be far, far more noticeable. “Studies have shown” that a wine can lose up to 3,5% of its alcohol in those six hours, dramatically changing the nature of a wine.
The jury is still out as to how much the tannic nature of a wine can be reduced during a quick 30 minute decant.


About the Author

Jono Le Feuvre is not a bean counter. He is a bean roaster. Bean roasters carry far more street cred & get to speak at bizarre niche gatherings of enquiring-but-unhinged-minds. They also usually have addictive tendencies. When he is not roasting beans he is pulling corks. Or deftly removing screwcap enclosures. But you can read more about him here.