Wine Review: 2007 Tawse Wismer Vineyard Cabernet Franc

14 04 2011

Tonight’s wine review is (very mildly) historic:  the first Canadian wine featured in this Canadian wine blog.  I have probably picked a good inaugural selection, since the Tawse Winery in Ontario’s Niagara region won the  2010 Canadian Winery of the Year Award from Wine Access Magazine.  I picked up this particular wine from Highlander in Marda Loop after being advised that it would “blow my mind”…them’s drinking words!

O Canada!

Despite living in Canada my entire life, I don’t drink a lot of Canadian wine, particularly Canadian red wine, so I approached this one with some degree of trepidation.  But I was excited to open any bottle of Cabernet Franc, which is an underused and underappreciated grape, especially in marginal wine climates like Canada.  Some interesting facts about Cab Franc:  (1) it is believed to be the genetic parent of the much-more-renowned-and-ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon (with the white grape Sauvignon Blanc strangely the other parent, as strange a love match as that seems); and (2) it ripens earlier and grows better in cooler areas than Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes Cab Franc an intelligent choice for Canadian winemakers faced with a short growing season (did I mention it snowed in Calgary yesterday?), colder temperatures and a latitude right at the tip of where grapevines can actually grow (they don’t grow much above 50 degrees Latitude, and the northern tip of the Great Lakes in Ontario is at 49 degrees).  Cabernet Franc is commonly found to have some greener herbaceous or vegetal flavours mixed in with its fruit, anything from grass or leaves to olives, asparagus or green peppers, which notes set its flavour profile apart from the riper, lusher Cab Sauvignon.

…But not so much in this case:  this was a plush, silky take on the varietal that almost came across like its warmer-weather cousin.  The Wismer Vineyard Cab Franc had a bright, sharp, translucent purple colour and a nose of ripe dark cherry and currant fruit along with sweet vanilla, coffee, dark chocolate and what wine magazines describe as “cigar box” aromas (which I take to mean both the tobacco smell from the cigars and the fresh wood smell from the box they’re stored in).  I strained my nasal capacity to pull out some greenness from the flavour profile, but there was none to be had.  Similarly, I was expecting a leaner wine on the palate, but the Tawse was rich, full and more than medium-bodied; it was definitely slightly thinner than your standard California Cab, but not by nearly as much as I had anticipated.  The flavour on the palate was intense, carrying over the dark fruits from the nose and adding anise, smoke and some clear woodiness along with grippy tannins that asserted themselves after the initial attack.  The finish might have been the best part of the wine:  peppery, slightly bitter (in a good way — think VERY dark chocolate) and lasting a good half a minute.

Cork Rating: 6.5/10 (That's right: mood lighting in the cork photo.)

This wine was a surprise from start to finish.  On the one hand, it was well-made, eminently drinkable and better than I thought Canadian red could be.  On the other hand, I would have been hard-pressed to guess it was Cab Franc if it wasn’t on the label, since it didn’t correspond to the standard flavour profile you tend to see in that grape.  I’m going to place more weight on the former assessment than the latter, because it seems like the producer intentionally took the wine in the direction that it did.  I don’t know if my mind is totally blown, but it’s definitely shaken up a little bit, which is what good wine should do.

89+ points

$35 to $40 CDN

[Wine Jargon Notes:
attack/midpalate/finish when you taste a wine, the initial taste impression you get is called the attack; the final taste impression as and after you swallow is the finish; everything in between is the midpalate.]




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