This debut bottling of Cabernet Franc ‘Decant’ is a design collaboration between Stratus VIneyards and Global Industrial Designer Karim Rashid. The aim was to embody the Stratus philosophy of ‘form followed by function’ by capturing the elements of vineyard diversity and winery design into a single contemporary bottle. Inside is a special Cabernet Franc, of which only 110 cases were produced, which was fermented with indigenous yeasts and bottled unfiltered on the lees.
“This limited edition cabernet franc comes in the arresting and radical “Decant” bottle created by renowned industrial designer Karim Rashid. At the May 3/17 launch he explained he wanted to deconstruct the conventional wine bottle and “chopped it up”. This led to two surprising bits of functionality. First, the ridges provide more grip while pouring than a rounded bottle. Second, the ridges trap and withhold any sediments during pouring. This led winemaker JL Groux to make a sedimented wine that was naturally fermented and aged on its lees in barrel, then bottled unfined and unfiltered. It is a quite rich, complex and refined cabernet franc with generous aromas of raspberry jam, tobacco and oak derived toastiness. It also had more exotic nuances of anise and chinoto, an Italian soft drink (Brio and others) flavoured with the myrtle leaf orange. It’s quite full bodied, with a satiny mid-palate and fine drying tannin.
“A designer’s hands are tied. They are only as good as their opportunities.” The words of the brilliant bottle designer Karim Rashid fully apply to the mirrored universe in which winemaker J-L Groux works, here with a deferential and ulterior cabernet franc, bottled with its lees. When I first tasted it in February (in advance of this auspicious release), its unfiltered state spoke of a hyperbole of perfume, marked by exoticism. The aromatics gave far east five-spice, star anise, cardamom, miso and incense, all natural by-products of its purposed ferment. More grain spoke out but also a roundness of tannin and a smoothness both coating and comforting.There was chocolate accentuated by the treatment, with thanks to those left in the bottle lees. The chopped up and constructed bottle catches the lees while the volume flows out and the function out of form mimics the thought of lees delivering structure and yet they are invisible, caught in a hidden net or nook, out of sight, out of mind. But it’s not about pouring. It’s about the hand, or the slight thereof. Then there is the copycat idealism of strata in the vineyard, of geology transferred to the bottle and kept there, like a ship perfectly preserved inside.