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What our expert thought of Pardas ‘Negre Franc’




the tasting

The Tasting


In the glass this is a fairly deep ruby colour.  It doesn’t show its age; there’s no bricking at the rim, and I would guess this to be a 2014 or 2015 rather than a 2011.
 
The nose is gorgeous: deep, spicy, herby, even creamy, and clearly a Bordeaux blend.  Accompanying the classic blackcurrant aroma are other ripe black fruits: plum and cherry.  The spices and herbs are at least as prominent as the fruit.  For the spices, cloves, black pepper and a spicy waft of alcohol.  For the herbs, dried mint and bouquet garni.
 
Subtle oak provides smoky and creamy notes, and perhaps also the char on the scent of charred red peppers, though the peppers themselves are typical of Cabernet Franc.  There’s a little note of cola too.  The nose is developing nicely, with maturity bringing hints of cigar box, leather and a very Spanish (or should that be Catalan?) waft of balsamic vinegar.
 
Dry, savoury and not much more than medium-bodied, this is incredibly light on its feet for a wine that says 15% on the label.  It tastes surprisingly fresh, with medium-plus acidity nicely balancing the alcohol and adding some red hints to the black fruit flavours.
 
Complex and seamless, those well-integrated flavours are hard to tease apart.  That’s a good thing, even if it makes my job harder!  I can find ripe plum, cherry liqueur, blackcurrant, and a hint of green olives.  There’s a cool mintiness here instead of the expected alcoholic heat.
 
The silky-smooth medium tannins are so well-integrated that it takes a while to notice them, but they play an essential role.  Aided by the acidity, they keep the palate and finish dry despite the ripe fruit and high alcohol.
 
The savoury, tobacco-ey finish has perfect balance: dry but not drying and subtly spicy, with white pepper noticeable at the back of the throat.


Assessment


When I first tasted this red in February 2017, the tannins were fairly prominent and I thought it was “still quite young”, though the quality was so apparent that we bought it anyway.  Eighteen months has made a big difference: the tannins are barely noticeable, lots more complexity has emerged, and the wine is absolutely ready.
 
I’m astonished at how lightly it carries its whopping 15% alcohol.  This is a wine that’s positively elegant: cool, fresh and minty rather than hot and jammy.  The preponderance of Cabernet Franc in the blend is perhaps responsible for both the elegance and the alcohol.  Its wines tend to be more elegant and less one-dimensionally blackcurranty than those of Cabernet Sauvignon, but it ripens earlier.
 
That unexpected freshness is also down to the local Sumoll, whose high acidity has lightened and lifted the two French heavyweights.  Bordeaux blends are rather an international style, but this one does show local character courtesy of Sumoll’s sharp cherries and that distinctive balsamic nose.
 
Besides, this is Penedès, where Cabernet-based wines are practically traditional.  Forty years ago the inaugural 1970 vintage of Torres’ Gran Coronas Black Label (today called Mas La Plana) trounced the best that Bordeaux and California had to offer at a sensational blind tasting in Paris, triggering a wave of Cabernet plantings across the region.  This is a wine that might just be able to pull off the same stunt.



Tasting notes

Appearance
medium++ ruby, no bricking. Doesn't look its age.
Nose

Intensity pronounced

Aromas spices (clove, black pepper, alcohol), dried herbs (mint, bouquet garni), ripe black fruit (blackcurrant, cherry, plum), oak (smoke, cream), vegetal (charred red peppers), cola, maturity (balsamic, cigar box, leather)

Development developing
Palate

Sweetness fully dry, despite alcohol

Acidity medium+, surprisingly fresh

Body medium+, incredibly light for 15%

Tannins medium, silky-smooth, well-integrated

Intensity medium+

Flavours ripe black fruit (plum, cherry liqueur, blackcurrant), dried herbs (mint), green olives
Finish

Length medium+

Flavours as palate, dry but not drying, spice (white pepper), dried herbs (tobacco)
Other notes
Gorgeous nose: clearly Cabernet, yet distinctive. Slight reduction so best decanted. Cool mintiness instead of alcoholic heat. Complex, seamless palate. Perfect balance on finish. Has local character (balsamic nose, sharp cherries). Ready, but may still improve; certainly will keep.


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