Looking for a delicious, affordable, and trendy new grape varietal to dazzle your friends at impromptu wine tastings? Look no further than Cabernet Franc, an all too frequently overlooked varietal that pairs well with a wide variety of winter-themed cuisine.
As an accomplished or aspiring wine geek, you may already know that Cabernet Franc is one of the five red grape varietals that make up a Bordeaux Blend. However, in nearby Chinon and Bourgueil, as well as Anjou-Saumur and Touraine, wine is made using this grape alone. Producers in Canada are using the varietal to make sweet ice wine, and in the North Fork of New York, many produces are creating delicious dry table wine from this varietal as well.
So why Cabernet Franc? Why now? Let us start with the season. As a self-described CF fan I will drink this wine all year round, careful to serve it slightly chilled in summer as the French locals do. Yet the rich, ripe, red-fruit oriented flavors in this wine warm the soul during the cooler months and pair well with winter dishes such as lamb stew. In flavor, the wine is not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon and offers some spice on the nose and palate, mostly from long oak aging (especially in France).
Beyond taste, this wine is usually a good value, particularly in France where small, quality producers take a great deal of pride in turning out nicely-crafted wines that typically sell for around $15 a bottle. If you love high-end, fine dining restaurants, you can usually find a delicious bargain with a Cabernet Franc.
As a member of Manhattan’s prestigious Wine Media Guild, I’ve recently had an opportunity to taste this varietal from many regions during our monthly luncheon with cuisine paired under the direction of celebrity chef Lydia Bastianich at her Felidia restaurant in New York. Speakers included author/importer Richard Johnson, Wolffer Estate winemaker Roman Roth, and charismatic Paul Grieco, co-owner and sommelier of the restaurants Hearth, Insieme, and Terroir.