Cabernet Franc, what is your purpose? Often playing second fiddle to bigger bolder Cabernet Sauvignon or acting as a blending component are the two obvious answers. Cabernet Franc does however play a leading role in some of the more “off the beaten track” wine regions. My friend Melissa Smits hosted a Cabernet Franc Tasting on Saturday at Vineland Estates Winery, which she appropriately titled “The Other King”. Cabernet Franc certainly is a noble grape with huge potential in up and coming grape growing regions. These regions may need more of an introduction than the already famed regions of Bordeaux or Napa however they are not to be underestimated. Cabernet Franc is proudly grown and drank in places like the Bourgueil, Saumur and Chinon in Loire Valley and the same is true for Canadian wine regions such as The Okanagan Valley, The Niagara Peninsula and even in Prince Edward County. Melissa’s tasting explored this less understood grape a little further. We tasted three flights of Cabernet Franc blind. Here are my notes:
2009 Pond View Cabernet Franc Rosé, Niagara, ON
Bright pink salmon colour. Smelt and tasted like an old world rosé. Aromas of dark berries and licorice. Off dry. Medium bodied. Flavours of berries and spice. Enjoyable long length. It tasted like “more”.
1995 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc, Niagara, ON
A developed nose. Aromas of smoke, tar, spice and meat. Hints of rubber and must. Medium weight. Medium minus body. Flavours of tar, smoke and dried herbs. Finished with notes of the raspberry and cherry. This was the oldest Cabernet Franc I’ve ever tasted. I thought it was still enjoyable in it’s old age, but probably wouldn’t hold on much longer. It lasted well for 16 years in 1.5L bottle.
2002 Vineland Estates Reserve Cabernet Franc Niagara, ON
Developing aromas of sweet herbs, black earth, black cherry and a mineral quality I will call graphite. Medium bodied. Fine grained tannins. Flavours of leather, cedar and red fruit. A good wine. Still available for sale at the winery.
2007 Rafael Cabernet Franc Long Island, NY
Youthful aromas of cola, black berry and spice. Long length. This wine got cool points because it was the first wine I’ve tasted from Long Island. But overall the youthful candied flavours made it a not so serious wine. And that’s okay. Best enjoyed on a picnic. Side note: stainless steel ferment. No oak.
2009 Domaine de Matabrune AC Bourgueil, Loire Valley
I was a little disappointed when this wine was revealed because it lacked any interesting qualities. Youthful. Aromas of purple fruit, dust and heavy lees. Chewy tannins.
2007 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Niagara Peninsula, ON
Medium intensity. Some volatile acidity – in a good way. Aromas of potpourri and red fruit. Flavours of spice. Medium body and intensity.
2007 Vineland Estates Reserve Cabernet Franc, Niagara Peninsula, ON
There was discussion on the health of this wine. The exact fault could not be pinpointed, but it just didn’t taste right. It could have been an isolated bottle. I will have to make an effort to retaste this wine in the future.
2005 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Niagara Peninsula, ON
Unfortunately this wine was corked. It is on the retaste list if I ever get the chance.
2008 Santa Margherita Cabernet Franc Veneto, Italy
Big points for this wine! It was complex and clean. Very direct flavours and aromas of berries, cinnamon, clove, dried roses and violets. Medium bodied. Medium plus acidity. Red fruit finish. An excellent food wine. I was happy to find out is available in VINTAGES for just $12.95.
2005 Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Niagara Peninsula, ON
An intense wine. Probably the wine with the darkest flavours. Aromas of black berry jam and chocolate lifted by VA. Fine grained tannins. Flavours of herbs and chocolate on the palate. Lingering finish. A good wine.