Cabernet Franc, WBW #44

Ξ April 1st, 2008 | → 1 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, International Terroirs, Wine News |

Cabernet Franc grapes

Reign of Terroir is pleased to participate in our first ever Wine Blogging Wednesday. For a brief explanation of its origins visit this link. This month’s topic, selected by Gary Vaynerchuk of WLTV, is French Cabernet Franc wines.

Our first entry is written by Greybeard, followed by yours truly, the Admin; Donna has written an excellent ’stand alone’ piece on how wine professionals conduct a blind tasting. Her effort deserves to be posted by itself. I will do so later today. Admin


Greybeard writes: It’s good to know Gary Vaynerchuk and I have at least one thing in common, we both have a special affinity for single varietal Cabernet Franc. So when he announced that WBW 44 was on the French version of this grape I was more than happy to break open a bottle and participate on behalf of Reign of Terroir.

For me this stems back to our family vacation in the Loire Valley in 2006 (my first trip to a wine region) where we rented an old farmhouse building in the village of Fougerolles, just outside the town of Bourgueil. We have wonderful memories of touring the region – Tours, Chinon, Saumur Saumur, Vouvray and several Chateaux in the area – plus sampling a fair amount of the local wines! I quickly became a fan of the reds made exclusively from Cabernet Franc (the grape is known locally as Breton). While the Loire in general may be better known for its white and rosé wines the basic Breton reds have a rustic charm and improve into serious quality wines as you move up the scale to the better offerings from Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil, the smaller neighbouring appellation of St. Nicholas de Bourgueil and finally to Chinon, the leader of Loire Cabernet Francs Chinon and historic fortress city at the heart of English-French politics & war for more than 300 years.


It was one of the bottles I brought back from this trip, the Marchesseau Fils 2003 Bourgueil, Cuvée Vieilles Vignes which was sacrificed in the name of Wine Blogging. This was purchased from the Maison du Vin in Bourgueil for the princely sum of £5 ($10 now, at the time closer to $8) and was due for drinking this year or next.

Bourgueil 2003

On the nose this has a strong raspberry reduction aroma and a rich oaky vanilla in the background with a subtle touch of menthol. The colour is deep and dark, promising something heavy, but surprisingly it is a little light in the mouth with firm tannins at the front and a smooth texture on the mid-palate quickly moving into a medium finish. This is a nicely balanced wine which I opened with friends and happily finished off myself to complete this article, 88pts.


Looking back through my tasting notes for other Loire Cab-Francs I came across 2 reds, from Saumur-Champigny and Chinon, and 2 Bourgueil rosés (rarities, as rosé accounts for less than 4% of production in Bourgueil) – all from the same summer 2006 vacation.


1) Daheuiller Domaine des Varinelles 2003 Vieilles Vignes, AOC Saumur Champigny – “rasperry jam nose with a smooth, balanced mouthfeel – not tannic. Slightly burnt flavour (good) and refreshing. 90pts.”

2) Domaine René Couly 2004, AOC Chinon – “rich and mellow nose, some light fruit. Very smooth tannins, almost silky/velvety. 90pts”

3) J.M Rouzier, “Les Géléries” 2005, AOC Bourgueil – “refreshing, fruity nose. Sour cherry Marzipan taste. 88pts”

4) Jacky Girard 2005, AOC Bourgueil – “ dry Rose, not much on fruit but very refreshing. 84pts”

While maybe not as beefy as Bordeaux, or as elegant as Burgundy, French Cabernet Franc from the Val de Loire can be a delight, and a bargain at the same time, and I’m glad I still have a few bottles left to come back to over the next couple of years. These reds are not too common in the stores around the UK, although Waitrose has a few to choose from, and I’d heartily recommend giving them a try if you haven’t experienced this region before.

Saumur coat of armsAdmin writes: My selection hails from Saumur Champigny AOC, the 2003 Clos Rougeard. The owners, the Foucault brothers, Nadi and Charles, have long been organic producers, though my understanding is that they have recently been Biodynamic certified or are in transition. (Beaune Imports has posted a fine gloss on their efforts written by Clive Coates.) Nadi and Charles produce three Cab Franc cuvées, Saumur Champigny, approx. 1500 cases; “Les Poyeux”, around 900 cases (Fork & Bottle has a nice review of the 2000); and “Le Bourg”, 300 cases. Full details may be found here. Finally, Andrew Jefford writes in his excellent The New France, “All are produced with very low yields, wild yeasts, long and soft macerations, oak-ageing (with a proportion of new oak), and bottled without filtration; they age as well as any”.

2003 Clos Rougeard

The cork broke as I pulled it out, but the wine was fine. Let it breath for a few hours as their wines are known to tight when so young. Tar and licorice on the nose; tons of raspberry jam, reduced dark cherries, and freshly sharpened pencil wood and lead; alc stated to be 12.5% but it feels hotter in the nose; very heady. The wine is easy to see through; very interesting hint of dark brick. On the palate, beautiful, bright fruit, with bitter chocolate sans sugar on the mid-palate to finish. Vegetal, bell pepper or jalapeño (?) Maybe green apple skin. Tannins softer than I expected (even though I opened this beauty far too soon), acid a bit strong. No oak to speak of on the palate but detectable on the nose. I can sense why this is their ‘entry level’ cuvée: just enough complexity to ’set the hook’ for the their more expensive bottlings! All in all, a bar-raising Cab Franc. Delightful.


On the West Coast bottles may be found as of this writing at The Wine House and The Wine Country. Price: $36-$40.

Donna’s contributions to follow.


One Response to ' Cabernet Franc, WBW #44 '

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  1. Rob Hagman said,

    on April 1st, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I’m excited and nervous to see Cab Franc being celebrated like this. I’m here in Northern Virginia where it seems that every winery around has at least one or two Cab Francs because it grows so well around. The problem is that they are all either not very good or extemely over priced or both.

    I’ll see if I can track down the one’s you’ve reviewed here and see if there is more that Cab Franc has to offer.


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