The Other Cabernet – Cabernet Franc
posted on June 27th, 2013 by Geoff Nicoll
In the timeless and indelible words of the great Rodney Dangerfield, “I don’t get no respect.” Or some would say the other Cabernet, the Cabernet that lives in the shadows. All the world watches Cabernet Sauvignon while Cabernet Franc, the original Cabernet and integral part of the wine world, waits for its day in the limelight. In terms of production, Cab Franc is one of the 20 most widely planted varieties in the world and goes under many different names, including Bouchet and Cabernet Aunis. Playing the underdog role seems to be where this wine is destined, even though, according to DNA testing, Cabernet Franc is the sire to the more famous and heralded Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, Cab Franc crossed with Sauvignon Blanc (yes a white) created Cabernet Sauvignon. How’s that for an interesting tidbit?
Cabernet Franc is an earlier ripening, thinner skinned, lower acidity grape that fairs well in cooler climates where physiological ripeness can be a challenge. It is used in a great many wine from Bordeaux, and is the main grape used in the world class Chateau Cheval Blanc (Miles most prized wine from the Hollywood screenplay Sideways), as well as Italy, Hungary, Canada, and of course the US. But Cabernet Franc is King in cooler regions such as France’s Loire Valley. The most prominent wines from the region, Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur Champigny are all world class villages that make distinctive and enjoyable versions of Cabernet Franc. Each with its own character while sharing the brisk freshness of the variety.
The wines are bright, racy, very well balanced and when done well, they have a charm that is unmistakable. Flavors of black currants, raspberries, tea, violets, and often graphite, and a sweet tobacco note. The wines are lighter in body and color, and thankfully a bit lower in alcohol. They are wonderful foils to marinated beef and game dishes, even hearty cheeses, and marry well with things from the grill including marinated mushrooms and seasoned vegetables. Quite possibly the perfect summer red.
One of my personal favorite pairings is a stack of beets layered with goat cheese, roasted pistachios, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Bliss!
Bristol’s favorites for the summer:
Alain Lorieux Chinon Theleme Reg $19.99 Sale $17.99
Pascal Lorieux St. Nicolas de Bourgueil Reg $17.99 Sale $14.99
Cht. Villeneuve Saumur Champigny Reg $16.99 Sale $14.99