It is difficult to describe Cabernet Franc because there really are two distinct styles out there. If we start with the classic versions from the regions of Chinon or Saumur in France, you get the one you might call “challenging”. It can be pungent, herbaceous with very crunchy fresh elegant red fruits. The cool climate of the Loire area, where it comes from, can give it biting acidity that some people don’t like in a red. But I see it as a red that gives me that burst of freshness I normally get from a white and it can also be a great food matching wine for that reason too.
Then I can take you to the second very different version that is typical of warmer countries like Argentina. I’m starting to fall in love with those styles. There it can achieve full ripeness that takes away the green edges and brings out a beautiful violet perfume as well as more succulent blue fruits with gentle spice edges to the flavour profile. A great alternative to a Malbec since it delivers a similar gutsy structure and full body.
So go and try one – or both. Maybe start with the style that you think you’ll like best.
DNA testing has shown that Cabernet Franc is the child of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc; which accounts for its pungent herbaceous character. Cabernet Franc as a grape, has very small and thick skinned berries which give it strong tannin. Winemakers often use it in blends for its touch of perfume or to add that bit of structure. A good example of this would be Bordeaux. In the St Emilion styles it is often blended in small parts with Merlot to add structure. Then for the Medoc styles it is used in small amounts to add that perfume.
Mencia, Malbec, Carmenere, Baja, Graciano
France: Loire (Chinon, Saumur, Bourgeuil), Bordeaux
South America: Argentina, Chile
USA: California, Washington State, Finger Lakes, New York State
NZ: Hawkes Bay
South Africa: Stellenbosch, Paarl
Other: Canada, Hungary, Italy, China
Roast ham, herb crusted lamb, tuna steak, vegetable lasagne