I’ve always had a soft spot for Cabernet Franc. To me, it’s one of the more seductively refined yet distinctly pronounced grapes. It speaks of its terroir like few others, painting a landscape of its origins through varying characteristics and intensities.
The grape is a significant component to some of the world’s greatest and most sought-after wines, particularly Bordeaux blends, like Château Cheval Blanc and Château Ausone. It can also be used to produce varietal wines, of which there are stunning examples made around the world, including California, Washington, New York, Italy, and Canada, among others.
Given its prominence and permeation, why does Cab Franc generally get such little respect? I say, it’s time to properly embrace the Franc.
A good place to start is the Loire Valley in France. Producers here have been working with the grape since the 11th century, mainly in the Chinon, Bourgueil, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Saumur, Saumur-Champigny, Anjou and Anjou-Villages appellations. The wines are generally quite aromatic with notes of red berry and cherry, as well as varying degrees of charming herbal, floral, pepper, tobacco and cigar spice notes. Typically more rustic and layered in character, they provide a great alternative to heavy or overblown dark-fruit bombs.
The other great thing about Loire Cab Francs? Their value! Sure, we would all love to have a cellar loaded with Cheval Blanc and the like, but few of us have the means to do so while still eating three meals a day. The Loire offers fantastic values for those looking to taste some predominantly or solely Cab Franc wines—think $20-$50 for 90-plus-point wines.
Sure, quality varies by producer and vintage, as it does in any wine-producing region the world over, but if you do a little research and stick to respected producers like Charles Joguet, Bernard Baudry, Olga Raffault and Yannick Amirault, to name a few, you’ll avoid the thin, weedy, unripe characteristics of poorly made Cab Franc.
Lastly, as mentioned earlier, of course great Cab Franc is not limited to the Loire. Excellent examples are produced worldwide at varying price points, and each has an identity of its own. You can always check out our online buying guide for a little recon before you head out to your local winery or retailer and see what they have. Trust me, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to give Franc a chance. And hopefully, like me, you’ll be happy you finally did.