Some people see Cabernet Franc on a wine list and think, “Oh, that must be similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
While Cabernet Sauvignon is the spawn of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, this father and son chose different paths in life.
Cab Sauv is a big, tannic, cigar-smoking, leather armchair. Cab Franc is the herbaceous, lithe, hippie uncle.
A Noble Heritage in the Garden of Eden. Cab Franc’s home is France, where it is one of the five Noble Grapes of Bordeaux, and has more of a showing on the right bank of the Gironde River. Where Cab Franc really shines though, is the Loire Valley of Central France, also known as France’s “Garden of Eden.”
The Loire River forms in the Massif Central (a highland region) and flows 1,000 km west to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest river in France. In addition to flowing through four different wine regions (that it helped to create), the river is dotted with hundreds of châteaus. Château d'Ussé at the edge of Chinon was the inspiration for the castle in “Sleeping Beauty!”
From west to east (starting at the Atlantic), the regions of the Loire Valley are Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine and Central Vineyards. Cabernet Franc is a major player in the middle two, with whites being the focus of Nantais and Central Vineyards (so named because they are smack dab in the middle of France).
Benchmark French Villages. In Anjou-Saumur, the villages of Saumur and Saumur-Champigny produce bright, peppery, spicy Cab Franc. Anjou-Saumur also has become known for its natural wine production, whether it’s because vineyard land was more affordable for young winemakers or because the fellowship bred a strong network of mentors and mentees. La Dive Bouteille, a natural wine fair, takes place here annually. The farmer-winemakers have upped the ante when it comes to Cab Franc, turning out versions that can rival Chinon (Touraine’s star village).
Moving east to Touraine, Chinon and Bourgueil are the main villages of note when it comes to Cab Franc. The wines are still classically full of the trademark green bell pepper notes—but not quite as poppy as the wines from Anjou-Saumur. Cab Franc from Touraine tends to be a little more serious, a little more tannic, and better for cellaring. Catherine & Pierre Breton of Bourgueil along with Charles Joguet of Chinon are benchmark producers making wines that have the ability to age, and are just freaking delicious.
Italian & American Riffs on Cab Franc. Cab Franc sings outside of France, as well. Ampeleia, on the Tuscan Coast of Italy, focuses primarily on Cab Franc. The supporting cast is Alicante aka Grenache, Carignan, Sangiovese and Merlot. Elisabetta Foradori, a famed winemaker from the Dolomites of Northern Italy, started Ampeleia in 2002. The whole line-up is stunning, from their Ampeleia, “Ampeleia” (mostly Cab Franc with Sangiovese) to the Unlitro, a one-liter blend of all their grapes that is a deliciously-fantastic value.
Domestically, winemakers in Santa Barbara are doing wonderful things with Cab Franc. Eric Railsback, winemaker at Lieu Dit, focuses on grapes from the Loire Valley. His Cab Franc is supple, fruit-driven and wonderful with grilled summer fare.
Other favs are Habit’s Cab Franc from Santa Ynez Valley, and Broc Cellars’ Cab Franc from Happy Canyon.
Pairing Made Easy. Another reason we love Cabernet Franc so much is that its acidity just makes it so damn versatile. It’s the go-to wine to please a table of both Pinot and Malbec drinkers. There are playful and fun bottlings, that don’t require food—just a slight chill and a patio at dusk—and more serious versions that are a match made in heaven with a grilled ribeye and chimichurri.
It is definitely about time the world started paying attention to this amazing grape.
Lindsay Furia - the CRU
JUST A FEW CABERNET FRANC WINES WE ARE DRINKING
HABIT WINES $37 btl
SANTA YNEZ VALLEY,
Habit Wine Company is the brainchild of Actor/Winemaker Jeff Fischer who produced his first vintage in 2008 after years of making wine in his garage in Los Angeles. His Cabernet Franc is aged in a large Puncheonon the lees until bottling. This wine is astunner! Bright fruit, earth and spice.
CATHERINE & PIERRE BRETON $38 btl
BOURGUEIL "FRANC DE PIED”,
LOIRE, FRANCE 2014
Catherine and Pierre Breton are the real life bon vivants vignerons of lore. Catherine and Pierre are two of the hardest working peoplewe know of in the wine businesses. Thisexplains why their wines, despite the fact that they are totally natural and unadulterated, are so incredibly consistent; consistently delicious.
CHARLES Joguet $25 btl
CHINON CUVÉE TERROIR,
LOIRE FRANCE 2014
Charles has since retired. Today, the young,eager, and talented Kevin Fontaine oversees the vineyards and the cellars. He and his team farm thirty-six hectares of Cabernet Franc.Those who are convinced that the bestCabernet Franc grows in Bordeaux may quickly transfer their allegiance to the Loire upon tasting these classic, appellation-defining Chinons.
DOMAINE DE LA BUTTE $38 btl
"MI PENTE" BOURGUEIL,
LOIRE FRANCE 2015
Owner and winemaker Jacky Blot is quickly becoming the name to know in Loire Valley making wines that speak of the place they are grown. An exceptional vineyard dominating the aluvial plains, 14 hectares in one piece on the most beautiful hillsides of Bourgueil, facing south on the edge of a forest thatprotects it from frost. The uneven, unusual inthe region is home to a huge cellar dug in the rock.
TENUTA MACCAN $18 btl
Produced by winemaker Giovanni Ruzzene along side the Maccan family with the desire to lift the quality of wine in the region to itshighest potential. The wine is grown in theDOC region of Friuli Grave with an average vine are of 34 years. Only 650 cases produced.
See you next Sunday.
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