This is the 10 day pre-release of Sigh of Relief 2015, a Cabernet Franc from the Helderberg.
Cabernet Franc is a very new favourite of mine. I’ve been working with grapes from this specific vineyard for 3 years and every year we get to know the flavour profile of Cab Franc a bit better. The possibilities for South African Cabernet Franc are immense. If you look at what a guy like Bruwer Raats has done, it is nothing less than super inspiring. But I’m not the only one who’s excited about this varietal – we will be launching Sigh of Relief 2015 in the top 35 Woolworths stores country wide on 10 October 2016.
Now you might be wondering why I am selling to a retail store like Woolworths, since for the past 12 years I have been selling my wines straight to you exclusively. I suppose the answer lies with accessibility.
When BLANKbottle started off, we only produced a little bit of wine and did not own a cellar. Now we make 75 tons in our own cellar and export to 11 countries.
Whereas before I used to travel one week a month, presenting private tastings to build up my private client base, priority now lies with the need to consistently provide you with a better product (of course I still do tastings… just not as many!). For this to happen, time on the farms, in the cellar and in my garage-label-design-studio is vital. So Woolworths provides me with a distribution network to make my wines accessible to a much larger audience. At the same time, they saw a need from the consumer’s perspective. Craft beer was probably the first product which provided the consumer with an understanding of the concept of hand-made. Woolworths saw an opportunity to further the concept in wine and created the category called “craft wine”, even though there’s no such official category in the wine world. So ask you local Woolies if they stock “craft wine” – their way of investing in my super small business – for which I’m truly grateful.
The Story of “Sigh of relief 2015”
In October 2012, a very well-known viticulturist and winemaker was walking through his little Merlot vineyard on the upper high slopes of the Helderberg (past Cordoba farm, to the very end of the road…), when he noticed something very strange. Halfway to the top of the vineyard, at a specific point, the growth points of the vine-shoots, in the morning sunlight, showed an abrupt change in colour – from green to bronze. And there’s only one varietal that does that. And it’s NOT Merlot…
Now on paper and according to the government, the previous owner had planted that whole block as Merlot and had been making wine from it for 13 years. Cabernet Franc, however, has this unique characteristic of showing bronze growth points (in the morning sun) only a few days of the year while the shoots are more or less 5 – 8 cm long. And it just happened to be on one of those mornings that the winemaker went for his morning walkabouts in his vineyard… So it turned out that the top part of the vineyard is in fact Cabernet Franc, NOT Merlot! The only explanation for this is that there must have been a mix-up when the little vines were distributed from the nursery.
Now, as we all know, Merlot is readily available whereas Cabernet Franc is far more exotic, funky and hard to find, especially on such super terroir! So, I can just imagine the disgust of that unique piece of Cabernet Franc each time someone referred to him/her as Merlot! And at the same time the pure emotional “Sigh of Relief” the vineyard gave when, on that specific day, someone finally discovered its true roots!
As a result of this discovery, that farmer, at that point in time, had no need for Cabernet Franc and I, on the other hand, was as always open for a great story. So the wine: mainly Stellenbosch Cabernet Franc, with a bit of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.