In last week's Review Blog (see below), I noted that there were four new Cabernet Francs in the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines. While Cabenet Sauvignon still remains the premier grape variety, Cabernet Franc is getting more attention. Here's more about that grape.
Cabernet Franc is the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon which came from a crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It originated in the Loire Valley of France and was introduced to the Libourne region in the 17th Century. However, in the 18th Century, Cabernet Sauvignon became more popular in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. Today, Cabernet Franc plays a secondary role to Merlot in the Right Bank of the Gironde (Saint Emilion, Pomerol) and a tertiary role in the Left Bank (Medoc, Graves) behind Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is only in the Loire Valley where the grape originated that Cabernet Franc plays a primary role as a varietal, and is the source for Saumur Rouge, Chinon, Bourgeuil and St. Nicolas de Bourgeuil.
Cabernet Franc cuttings were imported to California in the 19th Century, but Cabernet Sauvignon became more favored. There, Cabernet Franc veered toward vegetal characteristics (especially bell pepper). But in Washington, the vegetal character is toned down, with riper aromatics and suggestions of tobacco, coffee and herbs. One explanation for this is the longer daylight hours and cooler nights make Cabernet Franc more suitable in Washington than in California.
Much of Cabernet Franc's appeal is in the fruit forward flavors (raspberry, blueberry) and softer tannins, with the herbal characteristics not too overt, all of which make the wines food friendly (perfect Thanksgiving wine). Cabernet Franc will never replace Cabernet Sauvignon or even Merlot, but will play a supplementary role.
In addition to the four Cabernet Francs in the November issue, here are other noteworthy ones reviewed recently.
2017 Dusted Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Southwind Vineyard ($45) 19/20 points - October
2018 Watermill "Hallowed Stones" Walla Walla Valley ($40) 19/20 points -October
2017 Avennia, Horse Heaven Hills, Champoux Vineyard ($50) 19+/20 points - September
2017 Tinte Cellars, Yakima Valley, Dineen Vineyard ($36) 19/20 points - September
2016 William Church, Columbia Valley ($36) 18.5/20 points - September
2018 Seven Hills, Walla Walla Valley ($40) 19/20 points - September
2018 Nefarious Cellars, Wahluke Slope, Weinbau Vineyard ($38) 18.5+/20 points - August
2017 Dillon Cellars, Yakima Valley, Dineen Vineyard ($45) 19/20 points - August
2017 Barrister, Columbia Valley, Sagemoor Vineyard ($33) 18.5/20 points - August
2018 Savage Grace, Rattlesnake Hills, Copeland Vineyard ($32) 18.5/20 points - July
2018 Savage Grace, Yakima Valley, Pollard Vineyard ($32) 18.5/20 points - July
2018 COR Cellars, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard ($28) - July
2017 Walla Walla Vintners, Columbia Valley ($28) 18.5/20 points - July
2017 Walla Walla Vintners, Walla Walla Valley, Waliser Vineyard ($45) 19/20 points - July