You can shine too, Cabernet Franc!
18 May 2017
Cabernet Franc is a character actor in Bordeaux or in regions producing Bordeaux blends, where it plays a supporting role by adding structure, backbone and fragrance to the softer Merlot. As Cabernet Franc ripens at least a week earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, this trait allows the vine to thrive in slightly cooler climates. So, in Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is a stand-in actor being treated as an “insurance policy” against inclement weather close to harvest that may damage plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. Luckily, it can play more part on the right bank, where it is an integral part in the blends of St-Émilion and Pomerol, contributing up to >50% of the blend (e.g. Château Cheval Blanc). After all, Cabernet Franc often acts in the shadow of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot here, rarely given an opportunity to shine. However, in Loire Valley, Cabernet Franc is the Oscar Winner of the Best Actor in a Leading Role, especially on the stages of Chinon and Bourguil, where there are deliciously balanced and subtle examples of Cabernet Franc at its best, showing smooth tannins and good fruit with herbaceous undertones. After Loire, Italy is the second largest producer of Cabernet Franc, much of it is being made in Friuli-Venezia Giulia but perhaps the most well-known Italian Cabernet Franc wines come from Tuscany – the “Super Tuscan” Cabernet Franc! In addition to being used in blends and produced as a varietal in Canada and the United States, it is made into ice wine in those regions. Good varietal wines are appearing from Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, California and New Zealand. I have picked three good examples of varietal Cabernet Franc to taste today.
You know? Caberent Franc also plays multiple roles in Loire, where together with other grapes, it is made into rosés of different levels of sweetness:
The highest quality is Cabernet d’Anjou AC, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvigonon; a rosé with the characteristic green flavours of Cabernet is something of an acquired taste. To counterbalance the herbaceous effect, more residual sugar is left on Cabernet d’Anjou than in Rosé d’Anjou, making it slways medium-sweet in style. Cabernet d'Anjou are usually noted for their high acidity levels that give these rosé the rather unusual capability of being able to age for a decade or more.which is always medium-sweet in style.
Then, there is Rosé de Loire AC, which is always dry and must have a minimum 30% Cabernet grapes in the blend, with the remainder permitted to include Groslot, Pineau d'Aunis, Pinot Noir and Gamay.
Finally, Rosé d’Anjou AC is less sweet than Cabernet d’Anjou AC and is made predominantly of Grolleau blended with Caberent Franc and other local varieties. It is considered to be at a quality level that falls somewhere between Rosé d'Anjou and Cabernet d'Anjou, and is often fruity with light cherry flavours and moderate acidity.
"Being a star just means that you just find your own special place, and that you shine where you are. To me, that's what being a star means.” – Dolly Parton
OZ Clarke, Grapes & Wines – A Comprehensive Guide to Varieties & Flavours, 2015
Winefolly.com, “Cabernet Franc Wine Guide”, September 30, 2015
Wines and Spirits – Understanding Style and Quality published by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, 2012