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.
But 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.