Cabernet Franc is one of those grapes that gets no respect--even from people who know it's the grape in Cheval-Blanc. Have your wine buddies over and tell them you’ve got some Château Cheval-Blanc in the house, and they won’t prevent you from pouring it. But tell them you’ve got a Cabernet Franc–based blend from a cool climate you’re dying to pour, and you might get a few odd looks.
Cabernet Franc. It's weedy, herbal and crisp at its worst, and if you get a bad one, you never go back. Compare that to Pinot Noir, which disappoints more than it thrills yet continues to allure consumers and winemakers alike. Cabernet Franc is the anti–Pinot Noir in that regard.
But when it’s good, it delivers an excellent range of flavors, including cherry and plum, along with tobacco, olive and mineral. It can show a rich side, too, when planted in warmer sites, though it will never be confused with a Cabernet Sauvignon. It tends to produce moderate alcohol and fresh acidity, two traits that seem to be gaining favor with consumers these days.
Perhaps the tide is turning: I sat down yesterday with two top-notch Cabernet Franc producers (separately)--Rodolphe Raffault and Bruwer Raats. Both of them told me that business was up.
Raffault, who took over for his father at Domaine Jean-Maurice Raffault starting with the 1997 vintage, produces about 46,000 cases a year of Chinon. He now sends about 15 percent to the U.S.--a number that has increased steadily over the last few years. That’s surprising since the euro continues to pound the dollar.
Maybe it’s a case of Americans sticking it to the Bordelais by buying more Loire wine? Or maybe they’re just waking up to the myriad charming wines that the Loire has to offer (consider that a shameless plug for my most recent Loire report, in the June 15 issue).
As for Raats, he’s probably better known for his Chenin Blanc. But he told me that as he was pouring his Cabernet Franc at a recent trade tasting here in New York City, he was getting orders on the spot for the wine from people who didn’t even know he made one before they actually tasted it.
So maybe Cabernet Franc is starting to get some respect. That would be a good thing. If you’ve tried Raffault’s Chinons (not to be confused with the Olga Raffault domaine) or Raat’s version from the Cape, let me know. Or let me know about another Cab Franc you might have tried and liked ...
Eric Swanson — Westlake — May 9, 2007 11:41pm ET
Brad Coelho — New York City — May 10, 2007 8:25am ET
James Molesworth — May 10, 2007 8:56am ET
Rob Stenhouse — NY, NY — May 10, 2007 12:43pm ET
James Molesworth — May 10, 2007 12:59pm ET
William Newell — Buffalo, NY — May 10, 2007 1:30pm ET
Jordan Harris — Niagara, Ontario — May 10, 2007 6:47pm ET
Jason Carey — willow, ny usa — May 11, 2007 9:42am ET
Stephanie A Hubbell — winter — May 11, 2007 10:13pm ET
Robert Renner — Silver Spring, MD — May 18, 2007 3:28pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions