International Cabernet Days and Two ‘New’ Varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon: White and Bronze!

Over the past couple of years the phenomenon of International Grape Days seems to have gathered momentum. So far I have spotted ones for Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot, Albarino, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Tempranillo and Cabernet.

These are usually organised by promotional bodies, wine lovers or wineries and vineyards and you can spot them on Twitter as they use the hashtag – eg #CabernetDay.

People from all over the world unite on the given day to taste their chosen wine made from the grape being celebrated and talk about their findings – some blog, some tweet and others gather together at designated venues.

I think this is a great idea – especially when lesser known or neglected grape varieties are selected – as it widens the appreciation of wine. It’s a good excuse to explore different wines and discover grape varieties that you haven’t tried before. Upcoming dates for your diary are Cabernet Day 30th August, Grenache Day 23rd September and Tempranillo Day on 8th November.

It seems to have started off with the first Cabernet Day being celebrated 3 years ago which was organised by Rick Bakas, social media director of St.Supery in Napa Valley.

It’s believed that Cabernet Sauvignon originated in Bordeaux – Armand d’Armailhacq, of Chateau d’Armailhac (now owned by Mouton Rothschild) and his neighbour Baron Hector de Brane of Chateau Mouton were important figures in establishing Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1850s as the Médoc’s primary grape.

Chateaux Mouton, d’Armailhac and Brane Cantenac were the first to have actively grown the variety (for more information see my blog Château d’Armailhac, Mouton and Merlot).

You may say that Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s best known grapes so why make such a fuss about it? Grapes are always throwing up surprises whether it be flourishing in regions they have not been known to succeed in before or being used in inspired ways to create new wines under the vintners hand.

Even old well established grape varieties like Cabernet can give us something new . . . a couple of years ago I wrote about Mac Cleggett and Anne McLennan of Cleggett Wines in Langhorne Creek, South Australia, who have a real surprise growing in their vineyards: Bronze and White Cabernet grapes! (see my blog Albino Red Grapes?).

These grapes are unique, not just in Australia but internationally, and it has taken many years of painstaking lobbying by Anne and Mac to finally get the industry and the bureaucrats to accept their authenticity. Their story started in 1974 when Mac discovered Bronze Cabernet grapes hanging on a Cabernet Sauvignon vine. Mac propagated the vine and then in 1991 they found White Cabernet grapes hanging from the Bronze Cabernet. When they tried to register the names in 1994 they were rejected so initially the Bronze Cabernet was named Malian and the White Cabernet Shalistin.

Anne kindly wrote to update me last week that after much scientific research the Cleggett grapes have now been internationally registered as White Cabernet Sauvignon (synonym Shalistin) and Bronze Cabernet Sauvignon (synonym Malian), so you will see more use of the full names in future.

Scientific tests have confirmed that these grapes have the same DNA profile as the parent Cabernet Sauvignon but have now identified the small difference that resulted in the colour changes and the subsequent identification of the two sports of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The White Cabernet Sauvignon is actually an ‘albino’ cabernet grape and the Bronze Cabernet Sauvignon lacks anthocyanins (pigments) in the subepidermal cells but retains them in the epidermis.

Now officially registered on international grape databases, the grapes are producing wines of quality and distinction, and attracting interest around Australia as well as overseas. Cleggett Wines make both a dry and a sweet style white wine from the White Cabernet Sauvignon and a light red and a sparkling wine from the Bronze Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Bronze Cabernet Sauvignon is also used to make a rosé with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend.

The Men of Kent was produced to honour the Cleggett family ancestors who travelled from Kent to Holdfast Bay, South Australia on the Ship ‘Surrey’ in 1838. This wine is estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon with 4% of White Cabernet Sauvignon, co-fermented for 12 months in French oak barriques.

Cleggett Wines are open to visitors and you can join Mac on a tour of their vineyard and view the white and bronze grapes for yourself between February and April.

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