Cabernet Franc a cool climate red


While the current frigid winter is putting significant stress on all of the varieital grown here, our wineries are in the BUSINESS of winemaking. And our livelihoods depend on keeping a series of vintages in our cellars. We had tremendous quality in 2012 as the growing season [once we got past the scary spring frosts] was classic. And in 2013, the crop was huge. So while there will be some serious losses and lots of additional expenses to maintain the damaged vines, there should be plenty of quality vintages to share with all of the visitors to our wine region.

One rising star is a red called Cabernet Franc . It is widely grown in Euroope in such classic regions as the Loire, Bordeaux, Anjou and Medoc.

While the best of ours may not yet have achieved such international acclaim, we are getting there, hence this primer on the varietal.

Cab Franc, as it is commonly known, produces a black cluster but often produces a lighter and brighter red than its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon. It has fewer tannins and is less meaty than Cab Sauv too. A finished wine often emits a peppery aroma and often hints of tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, granite and sometimes even violets. 

Cab Franc was widely planted in Bordeaux through the 18th century and most geneticists believe it is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. 



It is grown nearly everywhere in the world where fine vinifera can survive, including much of Europe, Canada, California, Washington State, Michigan, New York, and even parts of Pennsylvania and Illinois.. and of course in Ohio, both in the Lake Erie region in the north and the Ohio River Valley region of southwest Ohio. . 

One of the reasons it can be grown in these region more easily than some of its red counterparts is that it generally ripens a week or two earlier in the harvest season. The berries are quite small with fairly thin skins. While some Cab Franc is made into ice wines, it is more problematic than the tough skinned Vidal Blanc which produces most of our white ice wines. However, in years when Mother Nature cooperates, a lovely rose colored ice wine from the variety can be a real treat. 

In especially cool years, when even this early ripener cannot reach full maturity, several of our Ohio winemakers have produced exceptional rose still wines. Often these are finished with just a hint of residual sugar. 

One of my favorite summer treats is to enjoy a chicken salad on a crisp bed of greens accompanied by a pretty glass of Cabernet Franc Rose. 

For additional information:

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About the author:

Donniella Winchell, Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association...


Donniella Winchell