Despite being one of the world’s top twenty most planted and drunk wine varieties, Cabernet Franc is relatively unknown compared to the “other” Cabernet, namely Cabernet Sauvignon. What is more ironic is that Cabernet Sauvignon is actually the genetic child of Cabernet Franc after a chance encounter with Sauvignon Blanc most likely in the vineyards of Bordeaux a couple of centuries back. Time now to focus on the future – Cabernet Franc!
In general day-to-day wine conversations, we often talk about “Cab” or “Cabernet”, implying Cabernet Sauvignon rather than his mother! A hundred years back, both CabFranc and CabSav had about the same level of popularity and acreage under vine. Today with the huge surge in new world wine plantings, Cabernet Sauvignon has taken off to become the most planted red wine grape varietal in the world.
This popularity and now overwhelming bias towards Cabernet Sauvignon hides the brilliance, charm and allure of Cabernet Franc. But that too is changing, with new plantings particularly strong in South America and with CabFranc producers learning to promote their varietal more strongly.
CabernetFranc is a much lighter less tannic more forward easy drinking wine with an amazing fragrant aroma and spicy long finish. It is also a very reliable producing vine that ripens earlier than other red wine grapes and flourishes in cooler conditions. These qualities have leant themselves well to Cabernet Franc being used as a staple blend wine and hence more often than not, its varietal name does not register on the label. Cabernet Franc is also a much more food friendly wine than Merlot, Shiraz or CabSav.
The largest global producer by far is France, which is a country that doesn’t currently favour publishing the name of the grape varieties in its wines. One simply has to know and learn the regions and hence the grape varietals therein. Many Bordeaux red wine lovers know the two big grape varieties used but are less knowledgeable about the part played by Cabernet Franc in their blends.
But increasingly we will see Cabernet Franc break through and establish itself as a well-known stand alone varietal wine in much the same way that Pinot Noir has emerged from the shadows of Burgundy in recent times. Wine drinking preferences are also changing, moving away from heavier often very ripe full bodied red wines in favour of varietals and wines that are lighter, less tannic, lower in alcohol but more expressive and discerning in taste.
Time to focus on the future. Welcome back Cabernet Franc. Check if your bottle shop has a CabFranc for you tonight?
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