Cabernet Franc: A Hidden Gem

By Jessica Granatiero

Cabernet Franc is a grape variety that jazzes me. Unless you are in the wine industry or a wine aficionado you may not have heard of this charming and aromatic grape variety. It is most often used to blend with other red grapes – such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot – in red blends from the Right Bank of Bordeaux, France and California. However, it shines on its own and pairs extremely well with food. It is often referred to as the feminine version of cabernet sauvignon.

The area and climate in which cabernet franc is grown will determine the final taste of the wine. Cooler climates, like New England, upstate New York, France’s Loire Valley and Canada produce lighter bodied wines with higher acidity and flavors full of raspberries and cranberries. While warmer climates, like those of California, Australia, Chile and others in the southern hemisphere highlight cabernet franc with a fuller body style and deeper fruit flavors of plums, black cherry and mocha. Some of the most prestigious cabernet francs hail from Tuscany’s Bolgheri, California’s Napa Valley and France’s Bordeaux and Loire Valley

Regardless of the region, cabernet franc also displays a notable bell pepper flavor quality to it, which is due to certain compounds found in this grape that other grapes do not possess. I always like to enjoy cabernet franc with a slight chill on it. This wine is a must try. Here are some of my favorites from different regions of the world.

Penley Estate Cabernet Franc, Australia – From the area Coonawarra, this selection is full bodied and full of allspice, plum, black cherry and chocolate flavors. Its roundness envelops the mouth nicely. It doesn’t spend any time in oak barrels, so the mouthfeel is clean and vibrant with just the right balance of acidity and fruit. Pairs well with grilled salmon atop broccolini and white beans.

La Jota Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, California – One of my favorite cellarable Cabernet Francs. Sumptuous, it has a full body with a silky mouthfeel right away. The tannins are present allowing it to live for 10+ years but they are soft. It has mocha, blackberry and plum notes that dance with soft vanilla and hazelnut notes from its time in oak barrels. Pairs well with grilled pork chops atop a mushroom risotto.

Lieb Cellars Cabernet Franc, North Fork, Long Island – The North Fork of Long Island from which this wine comes is becoming well known for the production of cabernet franc. Its warm summer days help the grapes develop full juicy flavors, while the nighttime coolness brings forth the acidity. This is one of my favorites! It displays notes of sweet tobacco, blackberry and currant and just a kiss of vanilla from its 10 months aging in Hungarian oak barrels. It also has a relatively lower alcohol content, under 13%. Pairs well with charcuterie with figs, roasted walnuts and pistachios and Turkish style foods like tabbouleh.


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