Flightless bird takes root

It wasn’t on the tables at the Australia Day tastings this week in London. But tucked away behind the front line of wine was something new from Australia.

It wasn’t on the catalogue, nor on the tables at the Australia Day tastings this week in London. It hadn’t been give a label or assigned a brand manager. But tucked away behind the front line of wine was something new from Australia, in fact, new from anywhere in the world.

Lurking under the Kingston Wine Agencies’ stand was the first bottle of white Cabernet Sauvignon ever to be seen in the UK. The new varietal, which was not created but the result of a chance natural occurrence a self-sown seedling was first spotted in the Swan Valley in Western Australia in 1989, and then cultivated by Dorham Mann, winemaker for Swan Valley Vineyards, in secret.

Named Cabernet Cygne Blanc, after the Swan Valley where the grape was discovered, it has been heralded the first true Australian grape variety.

Currently, the Port Robe Estate have an exclusive licence to grow the vine, granted by Dorham and his wife, Sally Mann, but this only lasts until June 2014, when the variety can be planted anywhere.

Only around 30 cases of the 2005 vintage have been produced, but 2006 will be Cabernet Cygne Blanc’s first commercial vintage, when 1,000 cases will be available. An investor in the Port Robe Estate Cygne Blanc project admitted the aim is to create 50,000 cases of the wine from 100 hectares of Cygne Blanc.

The wine has been described as having the characteristics of a ripe warm-climate Sauvignon Blanc as well as resembling a white Hermitage.

db February 2006

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