Cabernet Franc is the original Cabernet varietal. Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
Cabernet Franc is known for flavors and aromas of: Raspberries, Blackcurrant leaves, Plum, Vanilla, Tobacco, Cedar, Smokey and Violets. It can also have a noticably herbaceousness — fresh and dried herbs. However, if the grapes do not reach full maturity, a strong vegetal quality will be noticed. The primary growing areas are: in the Loire (Anjou, Saumur, Touraine, Chinon and Bourgueil), Right bank of Bordeaux (St-Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac), Friuli region of Italy with newer plantings in Canada, Washington, New York state, Australia, Chile, South Africa, California and New Zealand. Cabernet Franc from Chinon is among some of the best in the world during a good vintage — the weather in the Loire makes vintage quality highly variable from year to year.
In the US, the following producers are considered quite good:
Chateau St. Jean (Sonoma Valley, California), Cougar Crest (Walla Walla), Pride (Sonoma County, California), Reverie (Napa Valley, California), Fielding Hills (Washington), Owen Roe (Yakima Valley, Washington), Foxen (Santa Maria Valley, California), La Jota (Howell Mountain, California), Ehlers Estate (Napa Valley, California), Lang & Reed (Napa Valley, California), Peju (Napa Valley, California) and Justin (Paso Robles).
Cabernet Franc is a very good food wine and a good alternative to Pinot Noir. Cabernet Franc tends to have quite a bit of acidity and enough tannins to allow the wine to age well and develop additional complexity in bottle. Cabernet Franc from warm years in the Loire is very highly prized for its longevity and complexity.
At Thanksgiving, we tried the following Cabernet Francs – 2006 Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon AOC; 2006 Philippe Alliet, Chinon AOC. Both of the Cabernet Francs were very good with the turkey and the spicy zinfandel cranberry sauce. Please see the next post for detailed review of the 2006 Domain Bernard Baudry.
If you enjoy Pinot Noir and/or Cabernet Sauvignon, please give some of the Cabernet Franc a try. I think you will be surprised how tasting and food-friendly Cabernet Franc can be.