Cool Climate Red Now On Its Travels
For many years Cabernet Franc has been synonymous with red wines from the Loire Valley, the right bank of the Gironde in Bordeaux and parts of North East Italy.
Although overshadowed for many years by Cabernet Sauvignon, climate change has the wine makers of Bordeaux and beyond rethinking how to use this underrated red variety.
Cooler climate versions give red fruit focused wines, with aromas of raspberries, wild strawberries and red cherries. There is often an herbal note of tomato leaf or hedgerow and a telltale graphite smell of pencil shavings.
Cabernet Franc is usually made into dry, red table wines, often light and fruity, but sometimes richer, more complex, and age worthy. It can also be made into rosés ( both still and sparkling) with lovely structure and characters.
Is made into the sweet wine speciality, ice wine, in Canada. This is well worth a try, with a beautifully concentrated red fruit character.
It buds early and ripens early, often leaving light colour, light tannin, and medium body at its headiest.
Lots of game and pork dishes with work well, but be careful not to overpower with too much flavour. A neat plate of charcuterie, soft cheese and olives will be a perfect accompaniment.
FRANCE – Loire
Cabernet Franc likes cool and inland regions, making Anjou-Saumur and Touraine in Loire absolutely perfect. Wines from Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil, and Chinon are the best examples.
FRANCE – South West
About 10% of the vineyard area in Bordeaux and growing. Cabernet Franc was always used as an insurance policy if the Cabernet Sauvignon didn’t ripen fully. As the climate continues to warm, producers are using more Cabernet Franc to add freshness to the riper blends, a practice used by the famous Château Cheval-Blanc far ahead of its time.
Further inland the regions of Madiran and Bergerac are widely planted with Cabernet Franc.
ITALY – Friuli
Quite a lot is grown in Friuli where overproduction has damaged the reputation. Better producers are now producing some very good wines.
Initially grown in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa as part of Bordeaux blends, but now ripening nicely to make 100% varietal wines. New Zealand winemakers have found their Sauvignon Blanc to carry many of the flavours from Cabernet Franc, therefore its utility is minimal to them as a single varietal.
The style created in Chile is notable for its ripe style. This embodies the freshness that the Pacific Ocean gives.
In North America it’s widely planted across Napa and Sonoma, and is one of the few international varieties that is coping with the extremes of the Canadian climate as it is successfully used to make ice wine.