The Other Cabernet
If you ask your server or bartender for a Cabernet, there’s no mistaking, you’ll get a Cabernet Sauvignon. But there’s another Cabernet that continues to grow in popularity as a varietal, and for red wine lovers, it’s definitely worth a try.
Cabernet Franc is not new. In fact, the varietal has long been part of the classic Bordeaux blend — one of five grapes that make up that storied wine. Truth be told, it is a parent grape to Cabernet Sauvignon — it was crossed with Sauvignon Blanc centuries ago in Bordeaux. Winemakers in California and elsewhere use the grape in their Cabernet Sauvignon production, but increasingly, wine producers with an ample crop of the grape bottle up the varietal on its own — with some tasty results.
A medium-bodied wine, Cabernet Franc pairs nicely with an eclectic array of foods ranging from spaghetti and meatballs to Texas barbecue. Although the wine has a plentiful supply of tannins and acidity, it usually is less astringent than its offspring. The wine typically shows hints of peppers, spice and herbs, which provide an easy pairing point for dishes exhibiting the same. The fruit notes include plum and berries.
While France and Italy lead the grape-growing pack in terms of acres (or hectares) devoted to planting Cabernet Franc, the United States ranks third, and its cultivation is not limited to California and Washington. Cabernet Franc can thrive in cooler climates, so vineyards in New York and Pennsylvania grow it, and it has become a signature wine in Virginia.
The next time your wine plans point toward a Cabernet, try the other one. •SCM
Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc Finger Lakes 2011
A plant sciences professor from Ukraine, Konstantin Frank came to the United States in the early 1950s and soon recognized that, if vinifera grapes grow in Ukraine, they would surely grow in upstate New York. Herbs, peppers and spice highlight this medium-bodied wine.
Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc North Coast 2013
Cabernet Franc is the only red wine that this company produces. The wine is consistently high quality, and this vintage spent eight months in seasoned French oak barrels. It shows the characteristic notes of herbs, berries and black cherry.
Perusini Cabernet Franc 2012
This Cabernet Franc from terraced vineyards in Friuli shows the classic vegetal and mineral qualities, with characteristic spice notes. Its intensity allows it to stand up to grilled meats.
Barboursville Cabernet Franc Virginia Reserve 2013
Thomas Jefferson believed that Virginia had a climate for growing the kind of grapes that he enjoyed in France. Today, Virginia ranks fifth in the United States in terms of the number of wineries. This food-friendly Cabernet Franc has notes of cherry and plum as well as hints of caramel.
Robert D. Richards, CSW, is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators and has passed the first-level certification of the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers.