Cabernet Franc -- "Our" amazing red
Wine Folly is a publisher of some excellent wine books and they have a free weekly e mail blast which always includes lots of great information. This week, they featured Cabernet Franc as a real "up and comer. " Typically Cab Franc has been considered a "lesser" varietal that its storied cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon, but their contention is that is turning lots of heads among wine aficionados.
Since it is a cool climate, medium bodied, red varietal which grows very well in our region, it seems timely to share some additional information about this grape and the wine from which it is produced. In our market, from grapes grown in the Grand River Valley or Conneaut Creek regions, it ranges in price from the low twenties to the mid thirties. High quality vintages from other regions across the country are priced between thirty and forty dollars. [Meaning ours are a real bargain.]
According to Wine Folly, Cab Franc is the "parent grape" of both Merlot and Cab Sauv and is noted for aromas of raspberry, bramble, red plum, bell pepper, sometimes violets and crushed gravel. Other wine journals indicate it also has some Sauvignon Blanc in it family tree. There are thousands of acres [or hectares] grown in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux in France. Today, it is grown all over the world including in Italy, Hungary, Chile, Spain, Ontario, the North Coast of California, Washington's Columbia Valley, the Finger Lakes in New York and of course here in northeast Ohio.
In good growing years, the wine will often benefit from aging, albeit most experts say that holding it under optimum cellaring conditions for up to 7 years is abut the outside limit for most vintages. Suggested serving temperature is in the mid 60 degree range, so chilling for a half hour or so on a warm fall evening will contribute to its perception of quality. "Breathing" via opening the cork an hour or so is also recommended.
In ideal growing seasons as we had in the vintage of 2017, it produces a deep red wine with lots of complexity. In cooler, wetter years, sometimes our winemakers choose to finish it in a lighter, slightly sweet rose style. In either case it is worthy of exploration.
The finished wine typically has moderately high acids so it goes well with tomato sauces, BBQ and lamb. Foods with high acidity like those listed will actually make the wine taste a bit more fruity and contribute to a sense of "balance" between wine the meal. Ditto for foods with salty foods. However, if a high acid wine like Cab Franc is served with sweeter foods or those with umami [think savory/dried mushrooms], the acids will be intensified by the food on a plate and actually create a less pleasant experience.
My first introduction to Cab Franc came in the early eighties the cellars of the original Grand River Winery owned by local pioneer vintner, Bill Worthy. I remember him swirling, sniffing, sipping and commenting on the bell pepper he noted in the glass. Then, it was Greek to me, but since, with some practice, I can now identify what he was trying to illustrate to this then novice wine lover.
I always share "Wine is a journey of exploration that will last a lifetime." To my mind, it is what makes this so interesting a beverage. There will forever be corks to pop and new experiences to enjoy.
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About the author:
Donniella Winchell, Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association...