Sunday, August 29, 2010

#Cabernet Day -- Cabernet Franc Review

Cabernet Franc, for the most part, exists locked between the death grip of the hard tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon and the suffocating, chocolatey embrace of Merlot, with just enough room available to allow its fruity aromas to escape as it gasps for the life-sustaining air of Bordeaux.  There is a growing "Free Franky" movement that is seeking to peel away the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot bonds and to give this varietal its own stellar place in the sun.

Cabernet Franc (also known as Bidure, Bouchet, Cabernet Blanc, Cabernet Franco, Capbreton Rouge, Kaberne Frank, and Noir Dur) has the distinction, along with Sauvignon Blanc, of being a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon but, like many a parent, has been outshone by the capabilities and broad-based acceptance of its offspring.  With large clusters of blue-black grapes, Cabernet Franc looks a bit like Cabernet Sauvignon but the similarity ends at the first view.  Both varieties are grown in Bordeaux but while Cabernet Sauvignon has the starring role, Cabernet Franc is primarily used as a blending grape for Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot-dominated wines.  Chateau Cheval Blanc is one of the few Bordeaux wines to have as much as 50% Cabernet Franc as part of the blend.

Cabernet Franc is a vigorous varietal which flourishes in a wide variety of soil types and, unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, it does well in cooler climates.  The grape buds early and ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, providing a hedge against Cabernet Sauvignon losses resulting from inclement weather during harvesting.  The grapes are large and have thick skins but the higher pulp-to-skin ratio renders it less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon.  The vine is prone to vigorous foliage production in cooler climates and this has to be managed to ensure that it focuses on fruit ripening.

The most heralded characteristics of Cabernet Franc are the tannin/acidity balance and its fruitiness.  The fruit flavors associated with the varietal are blackberries, ripe plums, strawberries, raspberries, and cassis.  The non-fruit flavors that can be identified are meat, green olives, licorice, green peppers, nutmeg, herbs, leather and violets.

Cabernet Franc comes into its own as a varietal in the cooler Loire Valley.  This region is best known for its whites but in Saumur, Chinon, and Bourgeil the red wines are Cabernet Franc and are renowned for their value and ageability.  In the New World, Cabernet Franc is being planted with increasing frequency and made into a standalone varietal but the best adaptations appear to be in the cooler climates of New York's Finger Lakes, Hudson River Valley, and Long Island regions.

Warm weather Cabernet Francs have less acid and more tannins and, as such, pair well with the same foods as does Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Cooler weather Cabernet Franc pairs well with fish, light chicken and German Schnitzel.

Today I picked up a 2006 Chinon Cuvee Terroir by Charles Joguet and a 2005 Anjou Vendanges by Domaine Philippe Delesvaux to drink during the course of #Cabernet Day.  Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  Pick up a Cabernet Franc wine for #Cabernet Day. Free Franky.

1 comment:

  1. Love the Anjou, lots of bottle variation though, but when you get a good one it's alot of bang for the buck.