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The Cellar: For the Love of Cabernet (Franc)

Friday, July 25, 2014


Saget Chinon

One of my favorite grape varietals is Cabernet Franc. If you haven’t tasted a Cabernet Franc before you are so missing out! Originally from Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc has since spread to every major wine region across the world. Often used as a blending grape – principally with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – Cab Franc adds herbaceous accents of tobacco and dark spice. There are a couple of regions that specialize in bottling Cabernet Franc by itself, including France’s Loire Valley and New York’s Finger Lakes wine region. As a varietal wine, Cabernet Franc is light to medium bodied and often shows vegetal characteristics and bright acidity. I usually detect aromas of herbs and green bell peppers in well-made Cab Franc.

Cabernet Franc is a pretty versatile grape and can grow in a variety of climates - cool (think Finger Lakes), moderate (think Bordeaux), as well as warm (think Napa Valley). The aromas and flavors of the wine will change as the grape ripens on the vine: the herbaceous and vegetal elements will tone down, the red fruits will turn into dark fruits, the acidity will go down and the alcohol will increase turning the wine weightier on the palate. I prefer the cool climate expression of Cabernet Franc and believe that the best ‘old world’ examples are made in France’s Loire Valley where three villages, Saumur-Champigny, Chinon and Bourgueil (pronounced bor-goy) specialize in making single variety Cabernet Franc.

This week’s feature Cabernet Franc is from Saget La Perriere – their 2012 ‘Marie de Beauregard’ Chinon. If you are just getting into Cabernet Franc this wine is a great entry-point as Cabernet Franc’s often very assertive earthy, herbaceous and vegetal elements (elements that most Cabernet Franc lovers absolutely adore) are toned down. This has been achieved by careful hand sorting, choosing only the ripest of grapes, and having barrel aged the wine for 9 months. The result is a refined Cabernet Franc – silky smooth - with lovely red cherries and blueberries, hints of vanilla, earth and coffee. For well under $20 this wine is worth seeking out.


Try it next to a great Californian Cabernet Sauvignon and compare/contrast the structures (acidity, alcohol, tannin), aromas and flavors. If you need inspiration, look for the 2012 Mandolin Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine displays in interesting mix of dark cherries, cigar, cedar box and anis. To call this wine a ‘cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon’ is probably overstating it. But compared to some of the over-the-top, ripe (often flabby) Californian Cabernets Sauvignon’s out there the Mandolin does come across nice and cool with a refreshing acidic grip at the finish. The tannins are very well intergraded with just enough to dry ones tongue. These structural elements give the wine character in my opinion – and character is often hard to find in this >$15 price range.

If you like this kind of nerdy wine stuff and interested in exploring Cabernet Franc in depth, you should consider signing up for the next wine tasting at the Providence Wine Academy - hosted by yours truly. The august 4th tasting features three Cab Francs, as well as flight of the varietals Viognier and Malbec. Don’t miss out!


Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Feel free to email him at [email protected] with any wine-related question or learn about wine in person by signing up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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