Is Cabernet Franc the Quintessential Red? 1-14-24

Cabernet Franc grapes on the vine
When choosing a red wine to drink, one is faced with a plethora of flavor profiles and stylistic differences to consider. Do I desire a wine capable of deep extraction where the fruit and texture of the wine are the focus? Do I need a red that shines through its aromatic intensity and overall approachable structure? What about reds that cut through a meal with a vein of acidity and refresh the palate? I’m here to tell you that Cabernet Franc is all of these things in a way that no other red can be. Don’t believe me? Let’s discuss.

Cabernet Franc along with Sauvignon Blanc is a genetic parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape is noticeably more thin-skinned than its offspring, and ripens earlier in the growing season which has long made it a dependable variety for the production of fine wine. In its birthplace of Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc adds acidity and aromatic lift to the red blends that have made both river banks of the region famous. It can easily stand up to the spice of new french oak while not losing its varietal character. In the monovarietal expressions of the Loire, it reaches its full aromatic potential, with scents of graphite, black currant, and red licorice. These wines can be either light or medium-bodied in structure depending on the winemaker’s choice of extraction, with savory undertones that beg for hearty food. In Saumur, the grape becomes something extremely delicate and closer to Pinot Noir, with crunchy red fruit and subtle bouquet. In Chinon it’s something more dark, brooding, with meaty flavors balanced by exotic leafy aromas. And in the broader world of wine outside of France, the grape is often of the most engaging red wine export, creating the most unique bottle in a line-up from producers in Tuscany or Washington State.

In short, Cabernet Franc can be rich and it can be light. It can be savory and it can be sweetly spiced. It can wow you with its varietal aromas or be the lift in a wine that seeks its own identity. And the best part of it all? It’s often one of the most affordable red wines you can find.

I think the longer you love wine the more you gravitate towards Cabernet Franc as a varietal. I see it all the time with folks that I work with and customers whose palates have traveled the world. Sometimes there’s nothing better than drinking a grape which can speak so truely of itself, no matter what form it’s been presented inside. If you’re newish to wine and you’ve already fallen for this grape, count yourself lucky to have found this magical varietal so soon in your journey. If the wine trail for you has grown long in the tooth and is craving refreshment, take a pit stop with a wine that will awaken your senses.

Cabernet Franc Available Now:

Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Rouge 2019 750ml  $39 special, 35 bottles in stock now
Wine Advocate 91 points
 “From three parcels with vines planted between 1955 and 1957 on silt and sand topsoil covering softer limestone bedrock. the 2019 Saumur Rouge is pure Cabernet Franc naturally fermented in tank for six months. The 2019 opens with a pure and refreshing as well as spicy/floral nose with dark fruit and fresh lemon aromas as well as stony notes and a nice reduction. Wonderfully untamed. On the palate, this is a medium-bodied, fresh and silky-textured Saumur with a stimulating salty, round and fruity finish. At this young age, charm is not its greatest talent, but with bottle age, this will be a terrific Saumur rouge for many dishes and opportunities. I like this tight and traditional, straightforward style that might be a bit unpleasant at this early stage but will reward those with patience. 13.5% alcohol”

Domaine de la Chevalerie Bourgueil Breteche 2015 750ml  $26 special, 22 bottles in stock now
Close Out Sale: was $31.90 now $26
Importer note “Bretêche is an old word referring to a window or entrance to a fortified building, often above a gate to enable defenders to rain arrows or what have you upon attackers. It can also refer to entrances and exits in general, and this particular vineyard grows on the edge of the Restigné commune, where a road comes in. Pierre Caslot planted his parcel between 1988 and 1992 after his wife inherited the rights to rent it from her family. They farm just over 13 acres here. The soils are young limestone and a little clay, and this makes for a long, more linear wine than Galichets or Chevalerie, one with evident stony aromatics, lift and focus given by the limestone.”

Domaine des Closiers Saumur-Champigny ‘Les Closiers’, Loire 2021 750ml  $36 special, 20 bottles in stock now
John Gilamn 93 points “The 2021 Saumur-Champigny “les Closiers” from Domaine des Closiers is the winery’s basic level bottling, seeing no oak aging and being raised for six to eight months in stainless steel tank. Nevertheless, the bouquet of the 2021 is stunning, soaring from the glass in a black fruity blaze of dark berries, cassis, tree bark, cigar ash, dark soil tones and a distinctly smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is pure, fullbodied, focused and complex, with a beautiful core of black fruit, fine soil signature and grip, ripe, suave tannins and a long, vibrant and impeccably balanced finish. This is a stunning value! 2023-2050+.”

Arnaud Lambert Saumur-Champigny Terres Rouges, Loire 2021 750ml $24 special, 20 bottles in stock now
VinopolNote: 100% Cabernet Franc from 45-year-old vines grown on sand and limestone soils. Aged in stainless steel.

Caladan Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley 2017 750ml  $199 special, 12 bottles in stock now
Close Out Sale: Was $219 now $199
Wine Enthusiast 96 points 
“A top bottling of the variety, this small-production wine is structured and strong, opening reductively, with elements of tobacco leaf, oak and sage. The savory character persists in the form of leather and black pepper, allowing just a touch of sharp red fruit to enter and complement. This wine has further secrets to be revealed; enjoy best from 2027–2032.”

Piaggia Poggio de Collo Cabernet Franc Toscana IGT 2020 750ml  $66 special, 10 bottles in stock now
Vinous 97 points “The darkly alluring 2020 Cabernet Franc Poggio de’ Colli takes its time in the glass, slowly awakening with a dusty mix of red currants, pepper-tinged rose, exotic curries and the slights tough of animal musk that adds gravitas. This is velvety smooth yet finessed. It’s cool-toned in feel with a potent wave of tart raspberry fruits that saturates the palate with savory spice and mineral tones. It leaves a coating of fine tannins and a staining of berry concentration through the finale, tapering off sapid and long, yet perfectly balanced. What a radiant vintage for the Poggio de’ Colli, Piaggia’s varietal Cabernet Franc. Revisit it in five years to see some real sparks fly. ”

Proprieta Sperino ‘L Franc Bandit Vino da Tavola, Piedmont 2016 750ml  $99 special, 10 bottles in stock now
Tasting Notes “100% Cabernet Franc. Chocolate and earthy notes on the nose, followed by cassis, tobacco and plum flavours on the palate. This elegant, medium-bodied wine is beautifully balanced with supple tannins and a long elegant finish.