Week 49 – Cabernet Franc

We tasted: Saumur Cabernet Franc, Nicolas, £9

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This week we are on to the lesser known but classic wine style that is 100% Cabernet Franc, originating from the Loire region in France. I found a Saumur in our trusty local Nicolas wine shop, a great place for searching out random regional French wines.

I’m interested to see how this one goes down with Andy, I suspect he would be more a fan of the Argentine Cabernet Francs I’ve tasted in recent years that have the generous rich fruit profile more similar to their Malbecs.

As for the French version it couldn’t be much further up the opposite end of the spectrum from the juicy fruited new world Cab Francs. At work I’m known to be a bit of a lover of “leaf” which means I can handle and even appreciate my red wines when they have some green or even vegetal flavours; probably thanks to drinking all my Dad’s Bordeaux as a kid. This means I have potential to love a pungently herbaceous red like a Loire Cabernet Franc. Whilst others may hate it.

As a grape Cabernet Franc produces bunches with lots of small thick-skinned berries which give it strong tannins and is why it is often used to muscle up a red blend; for example with Merlot in St Emilion. It’s also naturally high in acidity and has a lovely purple fruit perfume. The leafy notes can be accounted for because it has a naturally high level of “pyrazine” characters which create that herbaceous character particularly in cool climates. It is also proven to be a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon when partnered with Sauvignon Blanc, which explains why Cab Sauv also picks up those greener notes. This makes it a characterful grape which sometimes people think therefore is best to be blended so it becomes more approachable.

Onto the wine we tasted, I was really pleased it was a “classic”. Upfront I got a heavy waft of fresh cut green peppers, with a smoky dark edge along with crunchy black fruits, it really did explode from the glass. To taste it wasn’t too grippy and taught on the tannin which can be the case with this wine. The fruit flavours were ultra fresh, just like tasting black berries of the bush and there was an elegant mineral graphite bite to it. The herbaceous flavours did linger on the finish, but like I said, I’m actually in favour of a dose of that in reds provided it is in good balance to the fruit.”

Andy says: “The first thing to note about this wine was the burst of fruit when tasting, which after a second rapidly faded, figuratively falling of a cliff in your mouth, changing to a more earthy flavour.

I don’t think I’ve experienced such a rapid change in taste in any wine before. Colour wise it was a nice vibrant purple. I agree with Emma saying it’s not too grippy. Tasting again a few days later, the fruit has faded and the change in taste in the mouth doesn’t happen anymore, and there is a vanilla like after taste.”

Buying Guide

Cabernet Franc is a grape that is either used as a minor part in blends like in Bordeaux or as a grape alone. On its own it is most known in the Loire region, with wines like Saumur or Chinon. But it is also starting to travel well and there are now many countries in the world testing out Cabernet France with some great results such as Argentina or California. We will be staying true to its original homeland and looking for a Chinon.

3 thoughts to “Week 49 – Cabernet Franc”

  1. A Domaine Vacher Saumur Champigny 2015 for me this week. Well priced at £11.50 from Amathus.

    In the glass is looked unusually translucent with a medium ruby colour. The nose was red/black berries (cherry, blackberry, cranberry) with some nice vegetal and earthy forest floor. After some air violet floral notes appeared. There was also a slight smokiness (the autumn misty type, as opposed to the burnt toast type).

    It was very pleasant to taste. Quite light bodied, dry and tannic around the mouth. The tannin was fine so that you noticed it but weren’t left puckering. The flavours were subtle but nicely balanced – light berry fruitiness. Some might find it a bit flat or boring, but I found in smooth, elegant and easy drinking. There wasn’t much finish and it could have a tad more oomph, seeming younger than its three years. But overall I liked it a lot. Extreme gluggability in a classic style.

  2. Wine -Frederic Mabileau Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, 2015 (Le Bon Vin £17)

    Colour; deep purple

    I’m pretty sure this wine is corked, so I can’t really leave much of a review. On the positive side, that’s only 2 corked bottles I’ve bought this year, which is a much lower percentage than it was 10 or 20 years ago.

    The taint overrides all aromas, with just a sense of rich black fruits coming through.

    The taste however has a very leafy, bracken, forest-floor, vegetal feel, which although hard to separate from the bad taste, still comes through.

    I will be returning this bottle, and doing a retest at some point in the future.

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