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Project Cabernet Franc

Published:  23 July, 2008

Interloire, the marketing board for Loire Valley wines from Anjou-Saumur and Touraine, has announced the latest in
a package of measures aimed at raising the profile of Cabernet Franc. Speaking at the 20th Salon des Vins de Loire last week, Suzanne Roussy of Interloire said that, for the first time, Les Rendez-Vous de Fontevraud 2006 will broaden its scope to encompass a sensorial evaluation of Cabernet Franc in addition to Chenin Blanc.

Roussy explained that it is important for the Loire to raise the international profile of Cabernet Franc, which she describes as emblematic for the Loire'.

The Loire is by far the biggest producer of varietal Cabernet Franc. Les Rendez-Vous de Fontevraud will take place 22-24 June at the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud in the Loire. In line with previous events, the tasting panel, which includes Tim Atkin MW, will evaluate wines from around the globe.

In addition to the sensorial evaluation, Roussy announced that the event will feature a technical presentation about Cabernet Franc by Sam Harrop MW.

Harrop, formerly a buyer for Marks & Spencer, is consulting on a project sponsored by Interloire to improve Cabernet Franc's export appeal. It involves 11 producers and 20 wines from seven different AOCs (Anjou, Saumur, Saumur Champigny, Touraine, St Nicolas de Bourgueil, Bourgueil and Chinon).

At the Salon to check the progress of the 2005 wines and discuss pre-bottling procedures with the growers, Harrop said the quality was very impressive'. He added: The UK trade often criticises Loire Cabernet Franc because it is too green. It is clear that the export market prefers riper wine styles, and what I have been brought in to do is help them achieve just this. I have emphasised to growers from day one that this is not about making New World wines. On the contrary, it's about making more balanced wines in all respects. The starting point is harvesting fruit that is free from flavour extremes - that is, intense vegetal notes on one side of the flavour spectrum and ripe jammy flavours on the other extreme. At optimum ripeness, Cabernet Franc can provide a rare, perfumed herbal quality that is very difficult to find in other red varieties. It is this perfumed quality that is Cabernet Franc's big selling point.'

During vinification, Harrop's recommendations to achieve a style of wine that he describes as riper and cleaner in flavour and softer and richer in texture' hinge around managing tannins by much-reduced working of the cap and managing the flavour profile through cold maceration, regulated fermentation temperatures and yeast strain. For pre-bottling, Harrop said the focus is all about ensuring that sulphur levels are maintained at a high enough level to stop oxidation and microbial activity; managing reduction, which can mask fruit flavours and put a cap on flavour intensity; and fining the wines with egg white to soften the tannins.' Finally, he has insisted that all in the project should filter with pad filtration to ensure fruit reigns in the bottle'.

Acknowledging that 2005 was a great vintage with good ripeness levels, Harrop said we can do our best in the winery to reduce green flavours using different techniques, but at the end of the day, if the fruit is unripe, then these flavours will always come through. Fruit quality is paramount. We hope this project will continue into next year to get a much better understanding of just how much we can influence flavour profile of these wines.' Going forward, Dominique Pasquini of Interloire's technical team said the most important job we have to do until September [before the next harvest] is

to communicate the results to other vignerons and all the syndicates, and organise meetings with tastings and guidance about increasing the quality of all red Loire Valley wines.'

It is intended to present the first wines made under the project to the UK trade and press at the London International Wine & Spirit Fair in May. Chris Skyrme, head of PR at Sopexa, London, said: We envisage a series of small round-table type lunches with Sam Harrop on the Loire Reds stand.'