Food & Drink

Drink of the week: A regional red that’s giving Bordeaux and Burgundy a run for their money

Thirty Bench Cabernet Franc

The buzz surrounding wines from the Beamsville Bench in the Niagara Peninsula, is growing.

Written by Christina Gonzales

And one wine in particular is making wine connoisseurs turn their heads. Thirty Bench‘s 2015 Cabernet Franc is being compared to reds from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Here’s what all the fuss is about.

Why Beamsville Bench is so great for growing grapes

Beamsville Bench is one of 10 sub appellations within the regional appellations of the Niagara Escarpment and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Millions of years ago, the area was a tropical sea, which turned into limestone and shale rock. Now, Beamsville Bench soil is comprised of boulders, gravel, sand, slit and clay, as well as shale, sandstone, and limestone. It’s a highly mineral-rich soil, which absorbs and drains water well.

“The Bench” is a plateau that slopes gradually from the Niagara Escarpment, benefiting from continuous air circulation and moderate temperatures, ideally for grape growing.

What makes Thirty Bench’s Cabernet Franc so special

In 1980, Thirty Bench started with Reisling, further expanding their portfolio in 2000 to other varietals. Impressively, the 2015 Small Lot Cabernet Franc took home the top spot at this year’s prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards, in London, England, which was judged by 59 Masters of Wine and 25 Master Sommeliers across 33 countries.

“We have roughly 60 acres here, 25 of which is Reisling and that’s how we started out, but the reds are only 18 years old,” explains Thirty Bench retail manager Ute Raetsch. “It’s about the terrior here; we’re one of few wineries who planted their vines on a slope. From Lake Ontario, we have a constant breeze and limestone soil, which the grapes just love. This creates a little micro-climate.”

When you should drink it

Thirty Bench’s 2015 Cab Franc is big, bold and smooth, so pair the wine with a rack of lamb, veal and venison (game-y meats). That is, if you can still get your hands on a bottle. On the palate, you’ll taste berries, spice in the middle, and smokiness in the finish.

“Our Cabernet Franc is aged for 20 months in Oak: it’s 90% French oak and 10% American oak, and over 50% new oak, which gives you a certain astringency and dryness,” Raetsch explains. “There’s a black cherry and black currant character.  It pairs extremely well with barbecue, or a portobello burger  because of its earthiness.”

We’re still in awe that this 2015 vintage from the The Bench won such a prestigious award. Unique, for a Canadian winery, says Raetsch. That certainly makes it more enticing to sip.