Cabernet Franc is well known for being a blending grape in Bordeaux, but it is so much more than that. It is not only one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, but also a parent of Merlot and Carménère. Cabernet Franc is also one of the top 20 most-planted grapes in the world. It is believed that Cabernet Franc originated in the Basque region in France, where Northern Spain meets with Southwestern France, near the cost of the Bay of Biscay.
One of the most important Cabernet Francs hails from Chateau Cheval Blanc, in the St-Emilion Appellation in Bordeaux, where it is often blended with some Merlot. Notable regions for Cabernet Franc include Chinon, in the Loire Valley France; Tuscany, in Italy, where it may be part of a Super Tuscan blend; Sierra Foothills, in California; Colchagua Valley, in Chile; Finger Lakes region of New York; and of course, Virginia.
Due to its thinner skins and earlier ripening, when compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc provided a sort of insurance to regions like Bordeaux, where the climate in the past didn’t always provide enough sunshine or warmth to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon fully. Compared to wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc wines are lower in tannin and acidity. The wines are more medium-bodied, with a fresher style, and most are ready for drinking enjoyment sooner, but are certainly ageable for 10 to 15 years.
Flavors and aromas that you may find in a wine made from Cabernet Franc include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, red plum, violets, roasted peppers, and chili peppers. Also, expect some savory notes from sage, bay leaf, and rosemary. There may be some tobacco, bell pepper, and eucalyptus there, too.
If you aren’t a big fan of the spiciness that Cabernet Franc can show, it is a good idea to decant or aerate the wine for a bit. This will help reduce that spiciness, and will make the wine taste softer and richer.
Food pairings for Cabernet Franc-based wines includes tomato-based dishes like spaghetti in meat sauce or with meatballs, roasted pork, burgers, seasoned lamb, and beef stew. Goat cheese, camembert, feta, and fontina are great partners for Cabernet Franc wines. For vegetarians, pair the wine with black lentils and red or pinto beans, seasoned with flavors like roasted red pepper, tomato, or mushrooms. Spice profiles that work well with Cabernet Franc include sage, savory, oregano, thyme, jalapeno pepper, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.
For our tasting this coming weekend January 30, 2021, City Vino will feature a Furmint and three Cabernet Franc-based wines. February 1st is Furmint day, so we decided to celebrate the day by sharing the Evolúció Tokaj Furmint Hungary. Our three Cabernet Franc-based wines include the Château du Hureau Tuffe Saumur-Champigny France, which is 100 percent Cabernet Franc; the Gabriele Rausse Cabernet Franc Monticello Virginia which is also 100 percent; and the Lovo Blossom Rosso Veneto Italy IGT, which is 50 percent Cabernet Franc, blended with 50, percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Please join us for this exploration of Cabernet Franc and taste of Furmint.