A Wine Lover’s Look At The Red Cabernet Franc Grape

The Cabernet Franc red grape was known in the Bordeaux region of southwestern France in the late the Eighteenth Century. In France Cabernet Franc is found in the Loire Valley, and in Bordeaux, especially in the prestigious St. Emilion and Pomerol districts. This grape is now recommended for planting throughout France. This variety is widespread in the northeast regions of Italy as well as in Chile, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. In the United States Cabernet Franc is grown mostly in California and New York. Other states that grow this grape variety include Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Because of their complementary characteristics, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon vines are often planted in the same vineyard as a sort of insurance policy. Cabernet Franc grapes ripen earlier and their vines survive cold winters better. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon vines have more resistance to spring frosts. Do I have to tell you which is the more famous, and often more expensive grape variety?

Cabernet Franc wines are often quite acidic with moderate tannins. They are aromatic and spicy, have berry flavors, and tend to age well. Cabernet Franc is a major component of Bordeaux wines, of which many are world class. In the Medoc and Graves districts this variety is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, while in St Emilion and Pomerol it is blended with Merlot. On a more prosaic tone, elsewhere in France it is blended with more plebian grapes. In the Loire Valley it is blended with Malbec and is also popular as a varietal wine. Some Italian Chiantis are blends of Cabernet Franc and that classic Italian red, Sangiovese. Australia winemakers have found success with unblended Cabernet Franc and with Bordeaux-style blends of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec.

Cabernet Franc-based wines are often enjoyed with Pates, Couscous, Pork Chops, and Rabbit. Cabernet Franc wine starts at about $9, but don’t expect a Bordeaux blend at that price. For about $18-20 you can try the plummy, spicy Long Island Millbrook Cabernet Franc with refreshing acidity and soft tannins. This wine is not pure Cabernet Franc but includes about 20% Merlot, and about 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. As an added bonus, this winery’s owner is said to have coined the phrase “I Love New York.”

Over the years I have reviewed only two Cabernet Franc wines. The first of them was a moderate priced Bourgueil AOC coming from the Loire Valley in central France. I don’t know if the producer chose to blend in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which may go up to 10% in this relatively prestigious appellation. The second was a low-priced Canadian version.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but definitely prefers drinking fine wine. He teaches computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. His global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com features a weekly review of $10 wines. Visit his Italian wine website www.theitalianwineconnection.com .

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