Posted October 04, 2012 This weaves a core of crushed plum and mulled cherry fruit with rustic tobacco, juniper and chalk notes, which all carry through nicely on the finish.
Fruit, juniper, and mineral—oh my! This wine has some complexity to it, but if we look more closely at these descriptors, we will discover what grape is responsible for this tasty wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon is famous for creating full-bodied and tannic wines. While it does tend to provide aromas and notes of fruit, a Cabernet Sauvignon is associated more with black fruit than red. Additionally, with no mention of big tannins or body, we can eliminate Cabernet Sauvignon as a choice.
Syrah, depending on the style, is also responsible for hefty wines. In addition, Syrah’s hallmark descriptor is pepper, which isn't mentioned here, so we can put Syrah to the side.
Pinot Noir is often associated with red fruit—cherry, raspberry and the like. Chalky notes can sometimes be found on some red Burgundies, but the one piece that does not fit well is juniper.
Sangiovese is a close choice. It can make rustic wines with hints of tobacco, floral and red fruit. In terms of minerality, however, chalk is not detected so much as, say, graphite.
The only choice left is Cabernet Franc, which is the correct answer. Cabernet Franc, depending on the region and style, can make wines with layers of red fruits, juniper and chalk.
This wine is a Cabernet Franc.
Cabernet Franc can almost be considered the little brother to Cabernet Sauvignon in that it tends to prefer the warmer climates, like Cabernet Sauvignon, and shares other similar qualities. Since it buds and ripens slightly earlier, though, it can tolerate cooler temperatures. In addition, it performs well in a greater variety of soils, although it thrives in sandy, chalky soils.
Right away we can eliminate Argentina and Australia. Cabernet Franc is grown in both countries, but it is made in small quantities and usually used for blends.
In Italy, Cabernet Franc is grown in both the Veneto or Friuli regions. These wines are typically lighter in style and would not have the complexity described in this note. Cabernet Franc is found in Tuscany as well, but again, Cabernet Franc is used primarily for blending while its big brother, Cabernet Sauvignon, is preferred.
The last two regions, California and France, are strong contenders in terms of Cabernet Franc production. In California, Cabernet Franc is used for blends, but it can often be found as a stand-alone wine. The Cabernet Franc of California, however, tends to be riper. California versions are usually aged in oak as well, and often reflect that.
France is the traditional home of Cabernet Franc. It is one of the most widely grown varieties in France, and it takes on various styles and roles depending on the region. It is on French soil where Cabernet Franc can develop its own, unique style.
This is a Cabernet Franc from France.
Cabernet Franc tends to mature faster and is more approachable at a younger age than Cabernet Sauvignon.
This Cabernet Franc is still showing primary notes of ripe, red fruit, so it’s not too old yet. The tobacco, however, could be an indicator of some age and maturity. The 2009 growing season in France was very good as opposed to 2008 and 2007, which posed some challenges. Cabernet Franc has the potential to produce green, vegetal notes if it is unable to ripen fully, so it is wise to guess that it came from a good vintage that was somewhat recent.
This Cabernet Franc is from 2009, making it three years old.
The only two appellations from France listed are St.-Emilion and Chinon, which are located in Bordeaux and the Loire, respectively.
In Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is used as a type of “insurance.” When the growing season is posing a threat to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is blended in larger quantities to help make up for lack of quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Knowing that 2009 was a good vintage in Bordeaux, we can assume that Cabernet Franc in St.-Emilion would have been cast in its understudy role—as a blending grape—in 2009.
Chinon is one of the few places where Cabernet Franc is the star of the show. The terroir, including the chalky soil, is often reflected in the wine. In warmer vintages, Cabernet Franc from Chinon can produce wines with layers of flavors and complexity. The answer is revealed!
This is a Cabernet Franc from Chinon.
It’s the Vignobles du Paradis Chinon Clos de la Lysardière 2009, which was rated 90 points. It retails for $16 and 250 cases were imported to the U.S.
For more information on Chinon wines, please see James Molesworth’s tasting report, "Success in the Loire," in the June 15 issue.
—Gillian Sciaretta, assistant tasting coordinator
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