By Elspeth Brown
Cabernet Franc is one of my all-around favorite grapes. While it isn’t hard to find, being one of the 20 most widely planted grapes, it can be difficult to find a 100 percent Cabernet Franc grape varietal. It originated in the Spanish Basque Country, but was transferred to France where it prospered.
In 1997, DNA evidence showed that the Cabernet Franc grape crossed with Sauvignon blanc to produce Cabernet Sauvignon. Similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but softer and less intense, Cabernet Franc has various other names, such as Bouchet in Pomerol, on the right bank of the Bordeaux region of France.
Almost refreshing, the wine has a medium to full body, depending on how the juice has been aged. It is typically blended with other grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux or the American version, Meritage. The Cabernet Franc vine produces small berries that have high levels of polyphenols, which are good for inflammation, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
There are a variety of different flavors you can taste in a Cabernet Franc wine, depending on the region and the way it has been aged. These include pepper, tobacco, violets, raspberry and refreshing bell pepper. The wine is more aromatic on the nose than a Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape has vegetal and herbaceous characteristics, smelling of fresh spring leaves, and has slightly less tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, which leads to a smoother mouthfeel. This is one reason I love Cabernet Franc; it offers many more layers than a lot of other varietals.
Cabernet Franc grows best in the Loire Valley and the Bordeaux region. It ripens very early, so winemakers can easily grow the grape in cooler, damper soils like the Loire. And, it’s very resistant to cold winters. This is such a great grape to grow because the vines grow vigorously in many soil types in cool and warm regions. Because of this hardiness, it has proven a great grape for our ever-changing climate.
The grape possesses nice tannic structure, good acidity and low alcohol. Even during a warmer season, it still retains all of these characteristics, adding even more bright fruit. New Zealand, Washington, northeast Italy and parts of California also produce delicious Cabernet Franc.
A multipurpose red wine, Cabernet Franc wines are food friendly, pairing well with chicken, pork, duck, beef, lamb, and hard and soft cheeses. Some of the great Cabernet Franc to be on the lookout for is the famous Château Cheval Blanc, Michael David Inkblot Cabernet Franc, Pride Mountain and Paradigm. I love to recommend this wine to customers looking for something just a little outside of their Cabernet comfort range. The bright fruit, spice, soft tannins, slight acidity, herbal flavors and subtlety of the grape make it a great wine to savor.
Enjoy! Elspeth Brown is the owner of Maggie B’s Wine & Specialty Store, 10 C South Main Street in Weaverville. For information, visit MaggieBsWine.com or call 828.645.1111.