With Father’s Day approaching, we pay tribute to the grape father of fathers, Cabernet Franc. Yes, Cabernet Franc! Did you know that Cabernet Franc is the father of Cabernet Sauvignon?
Early records from the 17th century state that Cardinal Richelieu brought cuttings of Cabernet Franc from the Libournais region in Bordeaux to the Loire Valley. The vines were planted at the Abbey of Bourgueil and cared for by an abbot by the name of Breton whose name became a synonym for the grape. By the 18th century, Cabernet Franc plantings were found in Fronsac, Pomerol, and St-Emilion in Bordeaux, and were being made into quality wines.
The similarities between Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon were often noted and in 1977 DNA tests revealed that Cabernet Franc had naturally crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to produce Cabernet Sauvignon. Additional testing into the 1990s concluded that Cabernet Franc most likely was “born” in the Basque region of Spain just below France’s southwestern border.
Cabernet Franc is one of the world’s top twenty planted grape varieties. Cabernet Franc buds early like Cabernet Sauvignon, and it ripens earlier, making it able to be grown in somewhat cooler climates and still have ample time to fully ripen. Plantings of Cabernet Franc are found throughout Europe, including the right bank of Bordeaux where it is prominent in blends, Anjou-Saumur and Touraine in the Loire Valley, northeast Italy, and Hungary. Plantings of Cabernet Franc can be found in Argentina, Canada, and China. In the United States there are plantings in California, Washington, New York, Colorado, and Virginia, among other places.
Cabernet Franc is often thought of as a blending grape, but it also can make lovely varietal wine. Wines made from Cabernet Franc are usually lighter in color and tannin than wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, yet these wines retain the intensity and richness of Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a smoother mouthfeel. Wines made from Cabernet Franc often have aromas and flavors of raspberries, cherries or other fruits. They can also display earthy or herbal notes, along with floral notes of violets. Green notes ranging from leaves to green bell pepper are also often characteristics. The wines can have slight notes of black pepper, too. Cabernet Franc’s hallmark aroma is graphite/pencil shavings.
This Saturday, June 15th, 2019, at City Vino we will be honoring the “Noble Father” and will be pouring two wines made from Cabernet Franc. From the "God Father" of modern Virginia wine making Gabriele Rausse VA Monticello Cabernet Franc 2016 and from France Château du Hureau Saumur-Champigny Tuffe 2014 . Join us this Father's Day and celebrate Dad and good wine. Cheers!