Divine Wine Sunday: The Franc

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  Hope those wine headaches are minimal on this fine first day of the 2012… I’m excited that my first Divine Wine Sunday post is on the January 1st!

Ok, on to business…

So – as a Wino, I do have a general idea of what kinds of wine I like to drink – it is pretty rare that I am unsatisfied with a glass or bottle that I end up with at a restaurant or wine bar… perhaps I’m lucky in my selecting of wines, or perhaps my palate isn’t developed enough to know when what I’m drinking is bad, or perhaps I just stick to what I know I like.  Usually, the only glasses I choose not to finish (or even give back) are those in a slow hotel bar that opts to serve its patrons a glass of wine out of a bottle that was opened two days prior.

Anyway, one thing that is for certain is that if there is a Cabernet Franc on the menu, that is typically my first choice.  This isn’t necessarily because I have loved every Cab Franc I’ve ever had.  But (a) they typically have characteristics that I enjoy in a big wine – dry and earthy with a smooth finish, (b) a Cab Franc wine (i.e. – one that isn’t blended with other grapes or at least not blended much with other grapes) isn’t all that common (from what I’ve seen), and (c) you don’t often see Cab Francs available in restaurants / wine menus.

Now, as a resident of the Valley of the Sun within a walkable distance to a lovely little restaurant and wine bar called 5th and Wine, you might guess that I was delighted to find a Cab Franc on their menu the first time I wined there. And not only was it fun to try, I also really enjoyed it!  And since then, I have really enjoyed it over and over and over again.  (Except during that brief period that they decided to not carry it until enough of us repeat customers cried to our servers.) So here it is…

Divine Wine of the Week: The Franc, Cosentino Winery, Napa Valley

The Franc

The Franc, Cosentino Winery

Price range: $20-30 per bottle at a wine store (I’ve seen it available for sale at Terroir Wine Pub), $10 per glass (at 5th and Wine), $20 per bottle from the Winery

Wino Assessment…

Besides the fact that it has accompanied me many-a-night at 5th and Wine, I enjoy The Franc because it is very dry (meaning, my tongue gets a little chalky when drinking it), but has a smooth finish (meaning, my throat doesn’t feel chalky after a sip).  It completely fills your mouth with flavor with a fine balance between plumminess and earthiness. (Yes, “plumminess” is a word.  Even if there is a red squiggly line telling you otherwise.)  And although it is very dry, that smooth finish allows me to feel like I could drink it all night.  So there’s my Wino assessment… let’s see what the books say…

The Grape…

Lots of people say they like “Cabs” – short for “Cabernet” – but that is usually a references to “Cabernet Sauvignon”.  The OTHER Cabernet is Cabernet Franc.  (Kinda like how pork is the OTHER white meat.)

Cab Franc is a French black grape variety and is usually blended with other grapes in wine making – most often, Cabernet Sauvignon.  It happens to be the “parent grape” to Cab Sauvignon, which was only proved in 1997 via DNA typing.  It buds and matures more than a week earlier than the Cab Sauvignon grape and is also less susceptible to poor weather during harvest.  It is one of the 20 most planted grapes for cultivation in wine. In fact, in parts of the Bordeaux region of France, Cab Franc makes up about 10% of a typical vineyard; because it is more “weather proof” than Cab Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, it is a safer bet for wine makers each year.  (Interesting, right?!… now I like Cab Franc even more – it is risk averse, like me!)

The Wine…

As a wine, the books say that Cab Franc is typically light to medium bodied and sometimes includes herbaceous aromas.  Huh… I would have thought Cab Franc would be described as medium to heavy, but I suppose I related the “boldness” of a wine more to its earthy factor than its fruity factor.

The Franc as described by its winemaker is: “The aromas come out immediately with ripe plum, cherry and clove. Plentiful ripe plum, black cherry and clove notes abound on the palate, followed by a welcome shot of tannin on the smooth finish.” [www.cosentinowinery.com]

So my judgement (as noted in “Wino Assessment” above) was not too far off (I did write that before reading anything else…).  Plum, smooth finish… it’s just that light to medium bodied thing threw me off.

Regions…

France: As of 2000, Cab Franc was France’s 6th most planted black grape variety, especially in the south western regions. It is very commonly used in the Bordeaux blends…

Italy: It is also fairly common in the north east regions of Italy, but not nearly as much as Cab Sauvignon.  Italians may refer to Cab Franc as “Cabernet Frank” or “Bordo”.  It is also increasingly being referred to as “Carmenere” in north east Italy.

The U.S. of A.: Cab Franc has been grown in Cali since the 1960s (way old, dude) and is primarily grown in the Napa and Sonoma counties.  The book says that it is becoming “increasingly fashionable” due to its relative scarcity (did you hear that – I’m part of an increasingly fashionable crowd!).  Besides Cali, it is also grown in Washington State, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York.

Other Random Regions: Cab Franc is also being planted in Hungary, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, and – are you ready for this – China. (Random!!)  I have enjoyed wandering around the wineries of Eger in Hungary, and while I didn’t know they used Cab Franc grapes, I love-Love-LOVED their wines.  (Though the handful of Hungarian wine available in U.S. grocery stores are not representative of what I tasted in Hungary… not even those sold at Trader Joe’s, friends.)

So there you have it – the first Divine Wine on Wino to Wine Know.  I feel like I Wine Know a little more than I did… do you??

[Source for all this fine Wine Knowing in this post unless otherwise stated: The Oxford Companion to Wine]

Comments

  1. Thanks for the information! I’ve enjoyed this wine as well, per your recommendation. I’m impressed with Wino’s assessment, using words like “plummy” and “chalky.” I probably only could have described it as “mmmmmmm.” Looking forward to more Divine recommendations from you!

  2. agreed, very interesting reading. I felt like I could taste the wine while reading about it (bonus for me, yummy wine, no post-wine headache). And, now I know how to describe taht tannin flavor, “chalky”, perfect!

    • Ha! I like the idea of just imagining drinking the wine and saving yourself from the potential headache. It reminds me of that scene in the movie, “Hook” with Robin Williams (as Peter Pan) and the kids all have the imagined feast in front of them and they get so full eating all the imagined food.

  3. that, not taht. but you knew that!

  4. Veronica Snodgrass says:

    Dang it! I tried this Cab Franc and this is the mysterious “quality” that I don’t like that I’ve been trying to describe to you for so long. It tastes almost buttery to me which I don’t care for in a white or a red. It’s weird though because I just had another cab franc that I really liked. Sigh.

    • Well, at least we have a data point now!!! I think we need to have a Cab Franc tasting one night to compare the ones you like and the ones you don’t like. And then I will blog about it:)

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