As regular readers may know, I’ve worked vintage the past three years in the Adelaide Hills, and a few times in between actual vintages I’ve helped out with bottling. On more than one of those occasions that’s involved a trip to Paracombe where a mobile bottling line was set up, and the good folks there played host while we put our wines into bottle. So in terms of full disclosure, I know some of the people at Paracombe and am grateful for their help in bottling, but if I didn’t honestly like this wine, their Paracombe Adelaide Hills Cabernet Franc 2007, I’d just write about something else.
I’ve enjoyed a number of Paracombe wines, particularly their Malbec, but as I’ve not written about a varietal Cabernet Franc before, I was drawn to this wine as I try to finish the second half of a century of varietal wines. However, this is in fact the seventh wine covered which has had some amount of Cabernet Franc, from the small fractions of the Bordeaux style blends to majority of the Anjou blend.
Cabernet Franc is a red grape, at home both in Bordeaux and the Loire, though generally as a contributing grape in the former and as a dominant grape in the latter. In the Bordeaux red blend, it buds and ripens before Cabernet Sauvignon, and can provide some insurance for when Cabernet Sauvignon fails to ripen. It’s the primary grape of Cheval Blanc, and is more commonly found in Libournais than in the Médoc and Graves districts.
In the Loire though is where it is most appreciated as a primary grape. In the central areas of Anjou-Saumur and Touraine it is the dominant red grape. In Saumur it is the principle component of their red wines, though Cabernet Sauvignon and Pineau d’Aunis may find their way into a blend as minor components. The same is largely true in Touraine, though blends are more common, again with Cabernet Sauvignon but also Gamay, and Côt (Malbec). Semi-carbonic maceration is sometimes used in Touraine, which can soften the wine and reduce some of the green character associated with Cabernet Franc.
This is the tenth wine from the Adelaide Hills to be featured in this blog, so if I haven’t said everything I have to say about the Adelaide Hills, then I’ve just been lazy. Rather than recap, here’s a retrospective – in terms of wines from the Adelaide Hills, I’ve written about three Chardonnays, two Pinot Noirs, a sparkling blend of the two, as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Fiano and even a Grüner Veltliner. It’s a diverse region, with a range of climates and altitudes, and more importantly an adventurous set of people growing many different types of grapes and making a similarly diverse collection of wines. In addition to this Cabernet Franc, I could list another 30 varieties being grown, which means I still have a great deal of work ahead of me.
First, my personal impressions of Paracombe. The first time I visited, I drove up in a rather low to the ground convertible with the top down and I was greeted by two enormous fluffy white dogs. (In retrospect, they’re about the size of your average retriever, but they were taller than I was sitting in my car.) Despite their barking, they were friendly and did not leap into my car and devour me. On their property as your approach it from the road you drive past vines, but behind the main building winery is a paddock with livestock and sometimes the resident kangaroo family (when they’re not in the vines). My guess is that the dogs approached the kangaroos with the same not unfriendly barking with which they greeted me, and the kangaroos took that to mean it was safe to stay.
Paracombe is a family run producer established by Paul and Kathy Drogemuller in 1983. They run what I consider a medium sized winery, and by that I mean they have about ten to twenty times the everything (space, tanks, barrels, staff) of the winery where I’ve worked. They have a range of roughly 15 wines, from a traditional blend sparkler, through Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay in the white category, a Malbec, Rosé, and then a collection of reds including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Shiraz varietals, a Shiraz / Viogner blend and a red Bordeaux style blend with a dash of Shiraz.
I should write something about their vineyards and their philosophy of producing wine based on what’s on their website, but I can’t really approach what I’m reading there in the same way I would with a producer I didn’t know. Instead, my personal impression of Paul Drogemuller is that he is a generous man of charm and character who produces (with the help of a very astute team) a collection of wines that are both very good and which do put their patch of the Adelaide Hills terroir in a bottle. The one thing that is a mystery to me is why his wines don’t cost more. Everything about the wine and winery is correct, the Adelaide Hills have a certain cache as far as regions go (though I have a bias), and the wines are fashionable varietals/blends. That said, I think that about more than a few wineries I enjoy, so I should really keep my mouth shut and stock my cellars with bargains.
In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, dark ruby with visible legs. On the nose it’s clean, with notes of spicy blackberry and blueberry – cooler climate influence? There are also elements of cooked meat and violets – a fairly complex nose. On the palate it’s dry, with medium acidity, medium plus soft tannins, medium plus alcohol, medium plus body, and medium plus flavour intensity. There are notes of green peppercorn, ripe, fresh blackberry and blueberry, and more of the meat from the nose with a medium length.
This is a good to very good quality wine. Very drinkable, but it could certainly enjoy some maturation and emerge with a more complex character. It was almost sweet on the palate, but from the fruit not residual sugar. One note which can cause complaints in Cabernet Franc wines is a green stem character, but I got none of it in this wine – only the green peppercorns. I think this will age well, and I hope to revisit a bottle in a few years.