Everyone knows CAB. That is, Cabernet Sauvignon. But what about the other Cab? Cabernet Franc is, in fact, the parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon and records of it in Bordeaux date back to the 18th century, although it was certainly planted in the Loire Valley of France long before that.
So what does it taste like? How is it different from the Cab we all know? It can vary greatly depending on which country its grown in. Traditional Cab Franc from the Loire, specifically from the villages of Chinon and Bourgueil, express violets, flower, perfume with deep black fruit character. It is used as a blender in Bordeaux to soften the bullish Cabernet Sauvignon and in California it is expressive and velvety in texture, often showcasing raspberry and tobacco.
There is a style of Cab Franc for everyone, and I have tasted several ‘wow!’ Cab Franc’s lately. DEP’s offers a large selection from around the world, and here I highlight several must-try’s.
Guarda Cabernet Franc Argentina, $19.99 92 points Robert Parker, “The Chinon-like 2014 Guarda Cabernet Franc had a combination of bell pepper, mint, incense and cigar box that transported me to the Loire Valley. The palate has those fine-grained, sharp tannins and very good freshness. Love it or hate it, this will surely divide people. It should age magnificently.”
El Enemigo by Catena Cabernet Franc Argentina, $24.99 92 points Robert Parker, “It has some notes of black fruit and violets, but remains closed, austere, lineal and straight with very high acidity. It is very much about the soil, not much about the fruit, but its youth is revealed in the notes of the elevage that are still there: that is cedar wood, peat and graphite. Summarizing, this is an austere, serious, long, tight red that has great potential to age. Drink 2015-2020.
Field Recordings Franc, $20.99 Winemaker Andrew Jones has a keen eye for diamonds in the rough: sites that are unknown or under-appreciated but hold enormous untapped potential. He strives for unique wines loaded with personality and a one-of-a-kind experience.
Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc, $24.99 Made by Cab Franc guru, fanatic, John Skupny. No one has invested more time, research and love into spreading the Cab Franc story than John. His North Coast is an homage to the Loire Valley.
Broc Cellars Happy Canyon Cabernet Franc, $26.99 A natural version of Cab Franc, this is light and zippy and can even be drank with a chill.
Michael David Inkblot Cabernet Franc, $29.99 BIG. BOLD. So inky dark it will stain your teeth.
Lang & Reed 214 Cabernet Franc, $41.99 93 Points Wine Spectator,At first scent, this wine shows a nice burst of raspberry and blueberry, with a top note of violet and a backdrop of savory herbaceousness. The palate is medium bodied with beautiful Cabernet Franc purity, texture, and length. Though very appealing for immediate pleasure, the structural elements will allow this wine to age gracefully for the next 7 to 10 years.”
Maxville Cabernet Franc Napa Valley, $51.99 90 Points Wine Enthusiast,Rounded in texture, this wine boasts a juicy midpalate and well-integrated oak tones. Cigar, tar, cranberry, currant and a pleasing bouquet of violet give it lingering character and a lasting impression.”
La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc, $63.99 95 Points Wine Spectator, “This full-bodied, concentrated wine shows plenty of power in its bringing together of the variety with smaller percentages of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. With a huge presence on the palate that lingers and stays in one’s brain, it shows a reductive quality of toasted oak along with black pepper, bark and leather saddle,. It’s a wine to enjoy from a giant leather chaise, if possible. Cellar until 2023.”
Revelry Vintners Aerial Series Cabernet Franc Red Mountain, $49.99 Perhaps the new bar for this wine, the 2014 is textbook in both aroma and mouthfeel. This is truly a collision of new Washington state and old world style. Strawberry hard candy, lavender, and cassis saturate the palate here. This is vintage for the books!.
Messanges Chinon $14.99 A great introduction to French Cab Franc without spending a ton of money, this wine is pleasant with a floral nature and spicy finish.
Petite Marie Bourgueil $17.99 This is the real deal people. Notes from the importer, “The cuvée “Les Galluches” is made from a blend of grapes harvested from different parcels, a majority of which are of sandy composition thus yielding a wine of intense aromatics and subtle tannins. This wine is aged in oak “foudres” or large casks for 4 to 6 months, then racked into cement cuves for several more months before bottling. The “Galluches” is a consistently impressive wine that is sophisticated in it subtle complexity and offers impeccable value. We import 3000 bottles per annum (and occasionally put this wine up in magnums).”