You might be surprised to learn – as I was – that two of the most expensive red wine grapes in Napa Valley this year are a couple of orphans from Bordeaux.
I’m talking about Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, both of which are used primarily for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and occasionally with Merlot.
While the suggested market price for Cabernet Sauvignon is $3,900 to $4,800 a ton, on the open market, Franc is selling in the same price range. And Petit Verdot is the cost leader, going for $4,500 to $5,500 a ton.
Before you get carried away thinking that prices for these grapes are out of whack, bear in mind that these prices are based largely on those grapes’ limited supply and the fact they’re in demand.
It’s the latter element – why California vintners would really want these grapes for their blends – that has me baffled.
Here’s why: With a few exceptions, these two grapes rarely make exceptional wines in California. Yesterday I tasted a few Francs, Malbecs and Petit Verdots and was disappointed. I couldn’t imagine any of these wines adding anything positive to a good Cabernet. On top of it, these were expensive wines.
Yes, Franc can add texture and aromatics (and is the most viable of the three grapes as a stand-alone wine--after all it's the dominant grape in Cheval-Blanc and in Loire reds such as Chinon). But the Malbecs (despite their success in Argentina) and Verdots were dark, tannic and angular.
That’s why they’re blending grapes.
But I wonder whether they really help the cuvées with color or structure, or are more of a fashion statement by vintners who want to claim they use the Bordeaux "recipe"?
I used to think the same thing about Merlot being blended with Cabernet. Why add a weedy, herbal wine to a rich, full- bodied Cabernet Sauvignon?
Hoyt Hill Jr — Nashville, TN — September 7, 2006 5:33pm ET
Brad Coelho — New York City — September 7, 2006 5:39pm ET
Neil Koffler — New York, NY — September 7, 2006 5:47pm ET
Mark Lewis — Napa — September 7, 2006 7:50pm ET
Andrew Compton — Anchorage, — September 7, 2006 8:44pm ET
Steven Mirassou — Livermore, CA — September 8, 2006 12:52am ET
Dan Jaworek — Chicago — September 8, 2006 9:19am ET
Ryan Dougherty — Napa, CA — September 8, 2006 10:55am ET
John Gavin — CA — September 8, 2006 11:07am ET
Hoyt Hill Jr — Nashville, TN — September 8, 2006 11:32am ET
Lee Romaine — Boca — September 8, 2006 4:53pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions