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Cabernet Franc takes centre stage at Warwick Estate

The new-release 2016 Trilogy – the flagship blend of this Stellenbosch farm – is Cabernet-Franc dominant for the first time. Chris Wilson meets the winemaker and tastes a five-vintage vertical...

‘Warwick is built on Cabernet Franc,’ says cellar master JD Pretorius, in London recently to launch Warwick Estate’s 2016 vintage of the Bordeaux blend Trilogy.

The flagship wine is now 51% Cabernet Franc, up 10% from 2015 when, for the first time, it comprised more of the blend than Cabernet Sauvignon – albeit by just 1%.

From now on, Pretorius wants Cabernet Franc to play the lead role in Trilogy.

‘Warwick has built up 30 years of Cabernet Franc history to show the grape works on the property,’ says Pretorius, formerly of Steenberg in Constantia.

Although Warwick is known for its Bordeaux varietals and blends (both white and red) it has been only a wine-producing farm since the mid 1980s.

Stan and Norma Ratcliffe purchased the property In 1964. Canadian-born Norma dreamed of making wine at Warwick, but first had to pay off its large bank loan, so sold grapes to a local co-operative and farmed everything from pigs to peaches.

‘Warwick is built on Cabernet Franc,’

In 1984 the loan was settled and winemaking began, led by Norma who had studied winemaking and experimented with small-scale production during the 1970s. She had even worked at Château Sénéjac in Haut-Médoc, which explains her desire to make Bordeaux-style wines.

Norma was one of the first female winemakers in South Africa and the first woman inducted into the Cape Winemakers Guild. ‘She was a real firecracker,’ says Pretorius, and many of Warwick’s wines carry the ‘Lady’ moniker in tribute to her.

The first Trilogy wine was released in 1986, making this 2016 vintage the 33rd release.

It was a very hot growing season, in the middle of a long-term drought, but Pretorius is thrilled with the results, believing Trilogy 2016 will continue to improve over the next decade.

Warwick recently increased its potential area under vine to 700 hectares with the purchase of neighbouring Stellenbosch winery Uitkyk.

But the expansion won’t affect what Pretorius believes is already a winning formula: ‘From a winemaking point of view we don’t plan to change much. It’s all very hands-off, as it always has been.

‘The groundwork is done. We will try to refine things from a vinification point of view, but not much else.’

No details were revealed, but you can bet those ‘refinements’ will include planting a few more parcels of Cabernet Franc.

Warwick Estate Trilogy Vertical

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