Home > Cabernet Franc, Grape Holidays, wine appreciation, wine information > Cabernet Franc – Well Worthy of a Celebration

Cabernet Franc – Well Worthy of a Celebration

December 4, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

Cabernet Franc.

Let’s talk about it.

Cabernet Franc is a parent. Like most parents, Cabernet Franc is often overshadowed by the achievements of its kids – especially when its kids are none less than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, some of the most famous in the wine world. It is interesting that Cabernet Franc is often described as “blending grape” – while it is true that Cabernet Franc is a popular choice in Bordeaux blends around the world (it typically ripens at a week earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, so it offers winemakers an “insurance policy” of sorts), it also excels just by itself. As a blending grape, Cabernet Franc is typically used with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, adding something important to the resulting wine. Meanwhile, the majority of single-grape Cabernet Franc wines have nothing else in the blend – just pure, unadulterated Cabernet Franc.

Today, we are talking about this pure Cabernet Franc. It grows successfully in the absolute majority of the winemaking regions – Bordeaux and Loire Valley in France, Italy, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Eastern Europe, Canada, New York, Virginia, New Jersey, California, Washington, Oregon, …. Pure Cabernet Franc wines typically happen to convey the terroir much better than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. With Cabernet Sauvignon, no matter where it is coming from, everyone is trying to achieve the “golden standard” of Bordeaux or Napa Valley expression, even if the wine is made in Italy, Argentina, or Long Island, New York. Cabernet Franc typically conveys a sense of place first and foremost – lean, clean, and minerally driven from Chinon, tart and herbaceous from New York, round and luscious from California. Same grape, unlimited number of expressions.

Celebrating the range of expressions of Cabernet Franc I can simply offer you a few of my experiences from this year. Back in April, I had 2017 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Franc Red Hills Lake County California, a biodynamically produced rendition that offered pristine beauty of cassis elegantly framed with the core of the well-integrated tannins. And then there was 2019 Domaine Bousquet Gaia Cabernet Franc Gualtallary Vineyards, minerally driven Cabernet Franc from the Argentinian dessert. Then there was the 2018 Terra Pacem Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley experience in Eugene, Oregon, offering pure Chinon-inspired, bell pepper and cassis rendition. And I can’t forget the 2011 Gran Enemigo Cabernet Franc Single Vineyard Gualtallary Argentina, again a high elevation desert beauty, which after the unimpressive start, opened up into an intricate interplay of iodine, cherries, cassis, and herbs (this one will definitely be on my 2021 top dozen list).

My most interesting Cabernet Franc wine discovery of this year came in the form of the bottle of Cabernet Franc from Bel Lago winery in … Michigan! My excitement comes from the fact that not only I got to taste the wine I never had before, but it also came from the region I had no prior experience with (so I got to update my Wines of 50 United States table the second time this year). And I also got to learn about winemaking in the new state.

2021 is an important year for the Michigan wine industry, as its oldest winery, St. Julian Winery, celebrates 100 years. Today, Michigan has 5 viticultural areas – Fennville, Lake Michigan Shore, Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula, and Tip of the Mitt. About 200 wineries operate in Michigan today, most of them located within 25 miles radius of Lake Michigan.

The Vitis Vinifera grapes were introduced in Michigan about 45 years ago, and today traditional cool-climate varieties, such as Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Franc are doing very well there, and even Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay had been successfully introduced. Michigan is particularly proud of its Cabernet Franc and even held its first Cabernet Franc Challenge in 2009, where 18 Michigan wineries and one of the French wineries from Chinon competed for the top prize (no, Chinon didn’t win it).

Bel Lago Winery (Bel Lago means Beautiful Lake in Italian) was founded in 1992 and opened its tasting room in 1999. The winery cultivates 100 grape varieties on 37 acres of land and produces between 17,000 and 20,000 cases per year. Bel Lago also produces fruit wines (Cherry wine is very popular) and a number of ciders.

2017 Bel Lago Cabernet Franc Leelanau Peninsula Michigan (13.5% ABV, $48, 87.5% Cabernet Franc, 12.5% Merlot, 34 months in French and American oak barrels) was a beautiful wine – currant leaves and anis on the nose, with a touch of tobacco.  Restrained with good cassis expression and herbal notes on the palate with cut-through acidity. Definitely an enjoyable Cabernet Franc rendition, again with its own character, easy to drink, and delicious.

Here it is  – new winemaking region and new Cabernet Franc experience. How was your #CabFrancDay experience? Did you learn something new or find a new Cabernet Franc wine that you like?

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