Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday: French Cab Franc

This month's host for Wine Blogging Wednesday is Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV and the topic is French Cabernet Franc. I wasn't able to find a wine that was from a majority of this grape but I did find a nice wine. First, a little information about the grape. (Click on the Wine Blogging Wednesday logo to learn more about this monthly blogging event.)

Cabernet Franc (Cab Franc) is one of the six red grapes permitted to be grown in the Boredeaux. Depending on how it's grown, Cab Franc can be both fruitier or more "vegetative" than Cabernet Sauvignon, although lighter in color and tannins. Wines made from 100% Cab Franc tend to have a spicy aroma and plums. The grape is usually blended with either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot instead of as a stand-alone wine. It "contributes finesse and a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes."

The wine I tried was from the Fronsac region on the "Right bank" of Bordeaux. The Fronsac is located where the Isle River flows into the large Dordogne River. This creates a microclimate that reduces night frosts in spring and cools the summer's heat. The steep slopes in Fronsac help the Bordeaux grape varieties grown here create powerful and complex wines. The soils are clay mixed with limestone.

Fronsac wines are described as being "masculine" and full-bodied. Grapes were grown in this are before the more famous Saint-Emilion just down the river. Merlot grows better here than Cabernet Sauvignon, so like other Right-bank areas, Fronsac is know for it's Merlot blends. Cab Franc is used to add spiciness and enhance the tannins.

The Bordeaux blend I tried for this WBW is from Chateau Villars, a two hundred year old winery in Fronsac. For the past two decades, the owners of Ch. Villars have been modernizing their vineyards and wine making practices. One example of this is that grapes are picked at maximum ripeness, causing the harvest to spread over several weeks. I learned from the book Nobel Rot (the Wine Book Club selection for April) that traditionally grapes were picked to insure maximum harvest before rains came. By waiting for maximum-ripeness, wines with fuller, fruitier flavors are produced.

The Ch. Villars wine I had was 75% Merlot, 18% Cab Franc and 8% Cab Sauvignon. It was 100% barrel-aged for a year in oak barrels, a third of which were brand new. This was a really nice Merlot, though it was different due to the amount of oak used. I had never been able to detect oak in a red wine before this wine, but it was definetly present in the Ch. Villars (Gary would make a comment about the "Oak Monster" I'm sure!) When I first smelled the wine, I could detect cherry and a fresh bread aroma. I couldn't name the fruit I tasted but there without being "fruit forward."

The wine has a medium mouth feel and really nice tannins that don't overpower the fruit or my toungue. Then just before I was about to swallow I could detect the oak. It wasn't excessive, but contributed to make the wine seem fuller. Some may not like it, though. The finish left a pleasant sour cherry taste and lasting tannins. This wine would be really good with food.

Its interesting how the oak effect the middle of my tongue more than any other area of my mouth. The oak also came back again in the finish. I've had other Merlots before, but I'm not sure what part the Cab Franc contributed to this wine to make it different. The oak was more detectable for me. I'll have to read other WBW posts today and try to find some of those wines to get a better feel for what Cab Franc offers. It would be cool to taste a 100% Cab Franc, a 100% Merlot, and then my Ch. Villars blend to see if I could then pick out the different varietals in the blend. I would definitely buy this wine again. The winery website said the wine will be best between 2012 to 2025. It would be nice to try it then to see how the wine deveolops.

Tasting Notes:

2005 Ch√Ęteau Villars Fronsac ($19.99)

Color:  Dark purple

Aroma:  Cherry and bread (wonderful Merlot nose)

Taste:  Fruit and oak, medium mouth feel

Finish:  Sour cherry, medium tannins and oak

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