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Written by
Jorge Bourdieu

Published
March 20, 2020

A Complete Guide to Cabernet Franc

A Complete Guide to Cabernet Franc

After Malbec, the grape variety in Argentina which has grabbed everyone’s attention is Cabernet Franc.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the origins of Cab Franc

In 1997 a DNA test performed at the University of California led Doctor Carole Meredith to conclude that Cabernet Franc is one of the genetic parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Sauvignon Blanc. This is why these two grape varieties have notorious similarities.

Even though it originates from Loire Valley, France and was planted in Bordeaux in the 17th Century, some recent studies show that the probable birthplace of this variety is the Basque Country, Spain. Nonetheless, it is the sixth most planted red variety in France. In Loire Valley, it serves as a dominant variety in blends and is even used as a single varietal. It has also given birth to some renowned rosés of the region. In the past it was considered a secondary variety and was used whenever the harvests of merlot and cabernet sauvignon did not have the expected quality. Currently, it plays a key role in blends with merlot in Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux.

Now, it’s time to explore its journey in Argentina

It was introduced in Argentina in the beginning of the past century. But only in the early 90s, it caught everyone’s attention, when the famous Argentinian enologist Roberto de la Mota brought some clones of Petit Verdot, Viognier and Cabernet Franc. Gradually, it began to be used in blends. A few years later, due to its remarkable complexity and its great ease to adapt to different terroirs, it marked its way to be sold as a single variety.

Today, according to the INV (National Institute of Viticulture, for its initials in Spanish), there is a total of 1146 hectares of Cab Franc planted in Argentina. This represents 1% of the red grapes and 0,57% of the total national area. It looks like a small number when compared to Malbec (42,000 ha). But it has experienced an exponential growth: In 1990 there were only 76 ha, by 2000, 207 ha and by 2015, 835.

VinoApp’s Verdict On Argentine Cab Franc

VinoApp’s tasting panel gathered to try some of the most diverse Argentine Cab Franc, representing the different regions of Argentina. Here’s our verdict-

  1. Abrasado Unique Parcel Gran Cabernet Franc 2015 (Winery Los Toneles. 100% Cabernet Franc from El Manzano, Uco Valley, Mendoza). Direct, austere and modern. The red fruit prevails, accompanied by mineral reminiscences and some green spices. Dry and vertical, of medium volume and fine tannins. Medium finish with notes of concrete and stone. Ready to drink, but it could be aged for some more years as well.
  2. Ala Colorada Cabernet Franc 2’16 (Viña Las Perdices. 100% CF. Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza). A great example of aromatic typicity. Concentrated and categorical, vegetal notes are dominant with green bell pepper upfront. In the second line, there are notes of red fruits and herbs like dill. There are well-integrated woody notes, ranging from coffee to vanilla. Fleshy, great tannin scheme and moderate acidity. We can find more red fruit and oak notes in the aftertaste.
  3. Andeluna Blanc de Franc 2019 (Bodega Andeluna. 100% CF. Gualtallary, Tupungato, Mendoza). This is a Cabernet Franc Rosé. Subtle and assorted expression. It reminds of white and blue flowers, citric fruits, and balsamic (mint). With a sweet attack, the surprise comes with its unctuosity. It has a moderate acidity with initial sweetness. It also has a medium finish with an aftertaste of ripe red fruit and lactic notes.
  4. Bad Brothers Facon Cabernet Franc 2017 (Agustín Lanús Wines, 100% CF. Cafayate, Valles Calchaquíes, Salta). Impressive wine coming from Northwest Argentina. Even though the typical vegetal notes are dominant (bell pepper and olives), it denotes great complexity with aromas like mushrooms, peppers, ripe black fruits, and toast-like nuances due to aging in oak. It displayed pleasant and potent attributes. Fresh, balanced in all its stages with a long and harmonious finish. Guarantee that it will get better with some time in the bottle.
  5. Benmarco Cabernet Franc 2018 (Susana Balbo Wines. 100% CF. Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza). Intense and simple with a modern trace. It exhibits notes of blue flowers, tomato extract, cherries, jalapeno and fresh thyme. Fluid, sharp, vertical passage. Refined tannins and medium body. Medium finishes with the resurgence of green notes.
  6. Casarena Lauren’s Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2017 (Winery Casarena. 100% Cabernet Franc. Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza). It opens gradually until it shows some complexity. Fruity profile complemented by notes of minerals and wood (leather and smoke). Great balance. It possesses a pleasant acidity, medium volume and plush tannins. In the aftertaste, bell peppers, beet and green herbs reappear.
  7. Desierto Pampa Cabernet Franc 2015 (Bodegas del Desierto. 100% Cabernet Franc, Alto Valle del Río Colorado, 25 de Mayo, La Pampa). Eloquent and complex nose. It reveals balsamic notes, some vegetables like bell pepper, and also some cherry and cinnamon. Wood stands upfront: caramel, vanilla and roasted notes. Structured and intense. A traditional profile with a white thick tannins, remarkable alcohol and balanced acidity. It replicates the vegetables, fresh red fruit and oak aromas. Medium persistence.
  8. Durigutti Reserva Cabernet Franc 2017 (Durigutti winemakers. 100% Cabernet Franc. 50% from Tupungato and 50% from Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza). Attractive varietal composed by grapes coming from Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo. It conjugates perfectly with the balsamic, floral and wood notes (in great balance). Gentle with a firm and frank passage. Ideal level of acidity. Medium body with tasty and delicate tannins. Herbal finish which is typical of Cabernet Franc.
  9. Fuego Blanco Flintstone Cabernet Franc 2015 (Fuego Blanco Wines. 100% Cabernet Franc. Perdernal Valley, San Juan). Really spicy and fresh on the nose. There are notes of thyme, fennel, pink pepper, paprika, bell pepper, blackberries, gravel and granite. Intensely sweet attack and well balanced with its high and refreshing acidity. Polished velvety tannins. Silky medium finish with spicy reminiscences.
  10. Luigi Bosca Gala 4 2016 (Winery Luigi Bosca. 95% Cabernet franc | 5% Malbec. Las Compuertas, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza). This interesting Cabernet Franc from Lujan de Cuyo includes 5% of Malbec that contributes to its fruitiness. There are notes of bakery spices, eucalyptus, bell pepper, fennel, ripe red fruit, blue flowers and some vanilla. Full body with present and remarkable tannins. Medium-high acidity and well-integrated alcohol. A lot of red fruit and spices with a slight reminiscence of wood. Medium flow.
  11. Obertura Cabernet Franc 2016 (Winery Kaiken. 100% Cabernet franc. Vista Flores, Uco Valley, Mendoza). Notorious typicity on the nose with notes of red bell pepper and smoked paprika. Aromas like mint, licorice, black tea, smoke, cigar case, coffee and fresh red fruit can be sensed. Warm and slightly sweet attack. Elegant tannins with medium volume. Balanced acidity. Delicate mineral notes. Medium finish where the fruit and the wood coexist.
  12. Pasionado Cabernet Franc 2016 (Winery Andeluna. 100% Cabernet Franc. 100% Cabernet Franc. Gualtallary, Tupungato, Mendoza). Extremely impressive intensity with notes of roasted bell pepper, various spices, eucalyptus, paprika, black pepper, rosehip, violets, cherry yogurt, blackberries and a soft smoke. Concentrated and round. Pleasant and polished textures. Its tannins are refined and neat. Acidity that provides tension and vivacity. Long and spicy finish. Excellent balance.
  13. Proyecto Las Compuertas Cabernet Franc 2018 (Durigutti winemakers. 100% Cabernet Franc. Las Compuertas, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza). Potent on the nose, with a wide profile and spicy nature. Notes of black pepper, paprika, red bell pepper, concrete, redcurrants, cherries, mint, blue flowers, cedar and dill. Refined and elegant. Compact with well integrated tannins. Vivid acidity with great balance. Red spices and blue flowers reappear in the aftertaste. Profound and persistent.
  14. Saurus Barrel Fermented Cabernet Franc 2017 (Familia Schroeder. 100% Cabernet Franc. San Patricio del Chañar, Neuquen). A specimen from Patagonia, this is a modern and balanced Cabernet Franc. It’s intense and expresses notes of blue flowers and potpourri, tomato, ripe plum, leather, mint and bell pepper. Drinkable, tasty palate. Integrated and harmonious. Medium body and pleasant acidity. Persistent, it makes a comeback to its floral power and slight smoky notes.

Conclusions:

The elegance and complexity of Argentine Cabernet Franc stand out. Without losing fruit descriptors, its refreshing vegetal, balsamic, herbal and blue flower notes are outlined. The wood contributes to its characteristics without being the star which gave rise to great enological interest in this variety. They are versatile, with a pleasant structure and a present acidity. Great flow and enjoyable aftertaste. Undoubtedly, we are in front of a varietal that is not a passing fashion but a great ally. And, of course, a nice alternative to Malbec.

Leave comments if you’d like us to share the tasting highlight of any other Argentine grape variety!


Jorge Bourdieu

@jorgebourdieu

Sommelier and lawyer, in that order. Professor in the career of Sommelier at EAV (Argentine School of Wine). Head Sommelier at Vida Wines, importer of Argentine wines in the USA. He used to work at Bodegas Atilio Avena and Goyenecha. He was a member of the tasting panel of Austral Spectator. 50 years.

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