Only too often, when someone is offered a choice of a glass of red wine, the answer comes back “A glass of Cab please”. I wish I could just butt in, hold my hand up and ask “Which one?” Whenever I do get the opportunity to interject, I get a blank look back as if to say “Is there something else other than Cabernet Sauvignon?”
Well yes there is! And her name is Cabernet Franc, the princess of red wine grape varieties. And the irony of this blog post is that if it weren’t for Cabernet Franc, there wouldn’t be any Cabernet Sauvignon at all. DNA testing has shown CabFranc to be the genetic parent of CabSav!
Cabernet Sauvignon, the King of red wine varietals, is of course one of the world’s great red wine grapes. With over 200,000 hectares planted worldwide and it’s signature characteristics as a full bodied wine with high levels of tannin and acidity, a gorgeous strong cassis blackcurrant / dark ripe cherry nose and propensity for good ageing. All up CabSav is usually a powerful tasting wine.
Cabernet Franc shows infinitely more femineity. As a young wine, it shows a tendance towards gentle blackcurrant, which softens to cherry as it ages. The body of the wine is more medium than full with subtle but amazing complexity. And everything hangs off its legendary finish, that zingy spicy taste that lingers on and on after you have swallowed the last drop.
As with classic fine Bordeaux blends, Cabernet Franc is often the minor softer unspoken partner that links the stronger harsher nature of CabSav together with the full richness of Merlot to make a fully balanced wine that hits all the top spots at each tasting point in the wine. Increasingly, full varietal Cabernet Franc is making its mark with extended plantings in countries just as Chile and inventive producers in Bordeaux using the advantages of a warmer more southerly climate to challenge the French heartland of the Loire Valley for top spot. With mature, but not overripe, fruit, careful vinification to extract its natural bright colour but keeping the tannin levels soft and low, Cabernet Franc possesses an elegant balance of fruit flavours, complexity and length. It is a very natural food partner, matching even mildly spicy dishes perfectly. It makes a great aperitif wine as well coming in handy for serving with milder hard cheeses.
We will celebrate both of these wonderful grapes on global #CabernetDay on Thursday 28th August. Where is your party?
Let’s never forget there are two Cabernets!