This blog was originally posted December 4, 2015 on thecorkscrewconcierge.com.
December 4 is Cabernet Franc Day! It’s not as widely known as some of the other varietal days such as Grenache Day or World Malbec Day, but it exists. Well, actually it just seems that the folks in Michigan and a few others in California celebrate it on December 4, but I’m down with any excuse to open a good bottle. I even saw a couple of events for it on Facebook. There is a Cabernet Day, which is celebrated the Thursday before Labor Day, where all Cabernets are celebrated. But I would imagine that little old Cab Franc would be completely overshadowed by Cabernet Sauvignon. So hence the movement to give it its own day. In fact, the December 4 movement is driven primarily by the folks at Dracaena Wines in Paso Robles. Well cheers to them!
And I have to say that I am a fan of Cab Franc. In the U.S. it is difficult to find unblended or even as just the predominant grape in a blend, but there are some out there. I don’t know how many times I’ve done a wine tasting and got excited when I saw that a winery produced a Cab Franc. I would always tell them how I think Cab Franc is just so unappreciated and underrated. And they usually agree with me.
So because I was that kid that liked geography and history, I’ll tell you just a little bit about Cab Franc. While widely associated with Bordeaux, Cab Franc actually originated in France’s Loire Valley. In Bordeaux, Cab Franc is grown primarily to be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but in the Loire Valley, it often stands alone. And while Cabernet Sauvignon is renowned the world over, DNA testing has actually shown that Cabernet Franc got it on with Sauvignon Blanc to produce Cabernet Sauvignon. In other words (if you’re a bit slow) Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc were somehow crossed and we ended up with Cabernet Sauvignon. So it’s time to show some respect for Cabernet Sauvignon’s dad (or mom). Testing has also shown that Cab Franc “mothered” or “fathered” Merlot and Carmenere as well. So see, we all have a lot to be thankful to Cab Franc for!
While there are certainly many similarities between Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon, there are also some notable differences. Cab Franc tends to be less tannic and a bit smoother and in many of the ones I’ve had (mostly from the New World) it also tends to show much more fruit. Spice and pepper notes are also common in Cab Franc. It’s also known as being quite food friendly.
Aside from Loire and Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is also grown in Italy, Croatia, and Hungary to name a few European locations as well as several states in the U.S. including Michigan, Virginia, and Washington State. So that explains part of the reason that Michigan has embraced the day. And I can personally attest to the great Cab Franc in Virginia having tasted a few different ones on my past trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
So as I was checking my stash to see what I would open to toast Cabernet Franc Day, I was actually surprised to see that I had a few different bottles. I had two bottles that I’d picked up on a trip to Croatia from the Franc Arman and Degrassi wineries. I also had some from Catena in Argentina, Barboursville Vineyards in Virginia, and Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Rouge Les Chiens in Loire, France.
I always think it’s fun to compare and contrast different regions so I wanted to open a couple of bottles. It definitely made sense to open the Chinon Rouge from Loire since that’s where it all started, but I also chose to open the Virginia wine to see the difference in a New World wine. And both of these were 2013 wines, so neither had the advantage (or disadvantage) of aging more than the other.
I started with the Loire wine as i thought it would be a bit “lighter” than the Virginia wine. Boy was I wrong! This was a firmly structured wine with significant body and weight. While I could taste some red berry, it was definitely more earthy and the fruit not as pronounced as the Virginia wine. Next up was the Virginia wine. This wine was predominately Cab Franc but had 8% Petit Verdot blended in. As has been my experience with Cab Franc from the New World, the fruit was prominent and I could definitely taste berries and some cherry as well. While the wine was somewhat tannic, I also thought it was smooth and fairly easy to drink. Of course, as the hours passed, both of the wines opened up even more and were very nice to drink. OK, so as I’m not a fan of reading tasting notes, that’s about as much as you’ll get from me. What I really wanted to see was the difference between the Old World and New World Cab Francs and I was certainly able to experience that.