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First wine from new white' Cabernet grape launched

Published:  23 July, 2008

The world's first table wine to be made from the Cabernet Cygne Blanc variety - a new variety of Cabernet' that produces white grapes - will hit the UK later this autumn.
The wine, so far produced only in tiny quantities, is made by Port Robe Estate near Mount Benson, South Australia, and will be distributed by Australian Wineries. Graham Cranswick-Smith, a shareholder and director of Port Robe Estate, told Harpers: We haven't got much of the wine so far - only 67 cases of the 2005 - but we are expecting to produce around 1,000 cases of the 2006 and build up from there until we are producing up to 50,000 cases. We have planted around 100 hectares (ha) so far, but we have space to plant around three times that amount.

We are very pleased with the performance of the grape so far. It is almost like Semillon on the nose, but the palate is more like a Roussanne or Marsanne; there is also a distinct Cabernet character to it. You could say that it's the first truly Australian grape variety.' Cranswick-Smith added that the variety was naturally low-yielding, with small berries.

Dorham Mann - son of legendary Houghton winemaker Jack Mann - discovered the new variety in 1989 at his home in Swan Valley, Western Australia. A vine was found growing in the garden next to his Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard: he was going to pull it out until his wife noticed it had the leaves

of a Cabernet Sauvignon vine. Two years later, to his immense surprise, it started producing white grapes. For the next

eight years he worked the vine in secret, slowly building his plantings up to 2ha and producing a couple of hundred bottles a year. In 1998, he released a sparkling wine named Mann. No still wine has been commercially produced until now.

The vine was officially registered in 1999, and Port Robe Estate negotiated for the rights to produce still wine from the variety. No other company can commercially grow the variety until 2014, although Cranswick-Smith said the company would be interested in licensing other companies to grow it. It's not a priority for us at the moment, but if someone approached us, we would definitely think about it.'

Although no price for the new wine has been confirmed, it is expected to retail at 10-15 for the 2006 vintage. Around 500 cases are expected to be available to the UK trade this year.

Cabernet Sauvignon is itself a relatively recent grape variety, first appearing at the end of the 18th century, probably in Bordeaux, as a result of a spontaneous crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.