Category Archives: Cabernet Franc

Terroir in Chile?

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Talk about wine to anyone in France and, before long, you will hear the word ‘terroir’.  The local climate, soil, slope of the land and grape variety or varieties planted all contribute to the terroir and some include local traditions and winemaking in the mix, too.  In that broader sense, terroir is what makes one wine different from another. 

Given that, it’s surprising that you rarely hear the word used by growers outside France.  They’re aware of it, of course – anyone who has ever tried to grow anything, either professionally or for fun, knows that certain plants grow in certain places and not in others – they just don’t seem to use the word.

So, I was interested when, a few years back, the Chilean producer Undurraga introduced a range of wines under the ‘Terroir Hunter’ name.  Was this simply a bit of marketing or was there something behind the name?  The first example I tried – a Grenache blend, I think – showed clearly that these were quality wines and I’ve looked out for them ever since.

terroir cab fThe latest is a blend of 85% Cabernet Franc with 15% Merlot (Wine Society, £14.95) from the Catemito vineyard described on the back label as being on shallow, sandy clay soil on an alluvial terrace overlooking the Maipo River.  The terroir concept continues by noting that the local climate is temperate with cool breezes encouraging the slow ripening of the grapes. 

And the taste?  A lovely herby, green pepper nose greets you (my wife thought ‘spearmint’) followed on the palate with rich, dark blackberry and chocolate flavours.  There are still some well-integrated tannins there even though the wine is already more than 5 years old and a super, long, dry finish.  One slight reservation: the 14% alcohol shows through a bit making the wine a little ‘hot’ but, with the right food – red meat, game, mushrooms, aubergines or tasty hard cheeses all spring to mind – and decanting in advance to clear the sediment, this is a real winner and a credit to the use of the term ‘terroir’.

 

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For the Adventurous

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BTC Novel winesThe world of wine is expanding.  How often have I said that?  And it’s moving so fast that it’s almost impossible for any 1 person to keep up with all the changes.  That’s where small, independent companies come to the fore.  They can focus on particular areas ignored by others and gain in-depth knowledge of where the best wines are made and, perhaps, more importantly, who are the best producers.

One such independent is Novel Wines based in Bath.  India, Brazil, Croatia and Turkey are among the unlikely names on their list and a tasting they hosted recently for the Bristol Tasting Circle proved a fascinating opportunity to sample the offerings from some of the wine world’s less well-known countries.

The delightful Olaszrizling from the St Donat estate in Hungary (£17.95) was, for me, the pick of the whites.  The grape variety – no relation to Riesling despite the similarity of part of its name – isn’t generally regarded as particularly interesting but here gave lovely, tangy, herby flavours with well-integrated spicy oak and a good long dry finish.

BTC Cab S

Guliev Tremelov’s Cabernet Reserve from Odessa in the Ukraine (£17.50) was one of 2 stand-out reds.  Showing plenty of the blackcurrant fruit typical of the grape, backed up by some attractive toasty oak, this had good length and some complexity but, above all, was really drinkable, although, like so many reds, would be even better with food.

My other red choice was from Serbia.  DiBonis’ DiFranc (£27.95) used the ‘other’ Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, to give a wine with a perfumed, bitter cherry nose and lovely, sweet fruit on the palate.  One colleague said the wine reminded her of Black Forest Gateau, another said marzipan.  To me, it had shades of a good Valpolicella, but with, perhaps, rather more intensity.  Hardly a typical Cabernet Franc but a lovely wine, nonetheless, and, again, just crying out to accompany food – pan roasted duck breast in particular.

A fascinating tasting proving just how many different flavours are out there if you are adventurous and seek out the small companies, like Novel, who can point you in the right direction.

The ‘Other’ Cabernet

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There are 2 wine grapes with ‘Cabernet’ in their name: Cabernet Sauvignon is, by far, the better known, but, without the other Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, one of our favourite red wine grapes would never have existed.  It appears that a spontaneous cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc took place in a vineyard of mixed plantings many years ago and the rest, as they say, is history.

But ‘daddy’ Franc is still around and, in my opinion, can produce some very attractive, very drinkable wines, both as a varietal (a wine made from just one type of grape) and in blends.  The latter are most common in Bordeaux (with Merlot or the ‘other’ Cabernet as partners), while varietal examples can be found as far afield as north-eastern Italy, Hungary, Chile and California.  But the main source of single-variety Cabernet Franc is in the Anjou-Saumur section of France’s Loire Valley, although, in typical French style, the grape name rarely appears on the main label.

Instead, you need to look out for such Appellations Contrôlées as Saumur-Champigny, Chinon, St Nicolas de Bourgueil or Bourgueil.  All will be 100% Cabernet Franc and all, at their best, can produce delicious examples of the grape, especially in warmer years.  I wouldn’t claim to be able to distinguish between a wine from one of these Appellations and another – indeed, due to the influence of different winemaker’s styles, there is often more variety within an Appellation than between one and another.

BourgueilBut a Bourgueil we opened recently was delicious.  Lamé Delisle Boucard’s Cuvée Déchainée (a real bargain from Majestic at £10.99) is smooth with lovely black berry fruit flavours and an almost floral nose.  Quite light-bodied and with soft tannins, this is really food-friendly; try it with chicken or, even, perhaps a robust fish, like tuna.

Which goes to show that, despite all the attractions of Cabernet Sauvignon, it would be a mistake to ignore the ‘other’ Cabernet.