Get to know a lesser-known: Cabernet Franc

Label_WA_Owen Roe Rosa Mystica Cab Franc
I noticed that Cabernet Franc was used in a lot of red blends, but it got me thinking “Does this grape have the potential to be used alone?” There are quite a few grapes that are either too overpowering, or not overpowering enough to be considered viable options for a single varietal wine, but I thought that perhaps Cabernet Franc just wasn’t getting the amount of press it deserved. It must not be too strong since in some blends it can amount for 50% or more if the wine. Thus, I decided to investigate.

Cabernet Franc is one of the major grape varietals grown throughout the world. It prefers a cooler climate, and is relatively thin skinned (meaning less tannins in the wine). Cabernet Franc is considerably lighter in body than its relative Cabernet Sauvignon (Cabernet Franc is an ancestral grape for many varietals as it turns out). It adds spicy, violet aromas and finesse to wines along with flavors of raspberry and black currant. Definitely sounded like Cabernet Franc could make up a wine completely solo, and turns out that there are quite a few already produced.

Chinon, Bourgueil and St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil are not only three of the most famous Loire Valley wines, but they are almost always created using just Cabernet Franc. The best wines from each of these areas are soft and elegant, but have the full flavors of cabernet franc come through the wine. It is of course also planted widely in Bordeaux as it is used in blends throughout the region.

In North America, Cabernet Franc is used to make icewine (mostly in Canada and New York State), Napa Valley has won multiple awards for its Cab Franc wines, and in Washington state, Cabernet Franc is the fourth most planted grape (it is much more robust against cold weather than other grape varietals).

Label_FR_Roche de Feu_Chinon Cab Franc_with frameAt Portalis, we carry a variety of Cabernet Franc wines (as well as Cab Franc blends). This wine not only is easy to drink, but is easy to pair with food. Cabernet Franc can be paired with vegetable dishes, poultry, red meat, pizza, sharp cheddar or bleu cheeses, and pork. You can try the Roche de Feu Chinon, 100% Cab Franc from AlphaLoire, a producer from the Loire Valley, at the bar as a glass pour. It’s medium-bodied, has a lot of earth & is a fabulous food wine.  We also carry Paul Buisse 2005 L’Exceptionnel Bourgueil, another Cab Franc from the Loire Valley. If you’d prefer to try something local, we have the Owen Roe 2010 Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc, a beautiful, fuller-bodied Cab Franc from WA’s Yakima Valley.  It’s pricier, but it’s well worth the splurge!