The overlooked red wine that deserves more recognition

Aro­ma­tic, com­plex and a wine love­r’s favou­ri­te, a good bottle of caber­net franc can set you back just £9

ByVic­to­ria Moo­re, WINE CORRESPONDENT24 June 2022 • 11:30am

The lesser-known red wine that deserves more recognition

Wine­ma­kers love the hedo­nis­tic kick of per­fu­me you get from caber­net franc CRE­DIT: Ruby Mar­tin for the Telegraph

Years ago, on holi­day in the Loi­re, I sta­yed at a cham­bre d’hôte in a small châ­teau, whe­re we drank the local red and were given sea­food in aspic as part of the set din­ner. That sea­food aspic – a great, tur­ned-out mound of it stud­ded with octo­pus ten­ta­cles and sca­llops – defea­ted me. The wine didn’t. It was a fra­grant caber­net franc that smelt of red­cu­rrant lea­ves and sum­mer berries.

Loi­re caber­net franc is a clas­sic, a red that is lovely to pour in sum­mer, yet this gra­pe too often gets over­loo­ked. In super­mar­ket tas­tings caber­net franc seems to have been side­li­ned in favour of wines from trendy coun­tries (Por­tu­gal and Gree­ce), unex­pec­ted coun­tries (Hun­gary, India and Chi­na), tho­se made with les­ser-known gra­pes (hello, Ali­can­te Bous­chet) or indeed almost anything else.

If you ask res­tau­ra­teurs what diners ask for, caber­net franc rarely makes it on to the list, which almost always starts with rosé, mal­bec and sau­vig­non blanc.

At the top end it’s qui­te a dif­fe­rent story, espe­cially if you look at blends. Caber­net franc is hugely appre­cia­ted by wine­ma­kers in Pome­rol and Saint-Emi­lion in Bor­deaux, who pri­ze the aro­ma­tic qua­lity and fresh­ness it brings to mer­lot and caber­net sau­vig­non. In Bolghe­ri, the wine region in coas­tal Tus­cany that is the birth­pla­ce of the Super Tus­can Sas­si­caia, caber­net franc plan­tings are increa­sing for the same reason, whi­le Paleo, a 100 per cent caber­net franc from Le Mac­chio­le winery, sells for around £70.

The Loi­re is cool. I mean ther­mally, although in wino cir­cles it is hip as well – winos from both the old (cla­ret) and new (Jura, Beau­jo­lais, South Afri­ca, etc) schools are among the keen advo­ca­tes of Loi­re caber­net franc. The rela­ti­vely fresh tem­pe­ra­tu­res of the Loi­re mean that caber­net franc grown here is typi­cally medium-bodied, with a crunchy red­cu­rrant edge and a gentle lea­fi­ness, like a fruit gar­den in full flush.

Pour a caber­net franc from one of the Loi­re regions of Sau­mur, Sau­mur-Cham­pigny, Chi­non, Bour­gueil or St Nico­las de Bour­gueil and you’re pou­ring a little bit of early sum­mer to go with your rack of lamb with pea purée, home-made lamb bur­ger made with a spoon­ful of red­cu­rrant jelly, or bar­be­cued lamb and gar­lic kebab eaten with rai­ta and new pota­toes. Need a good one? Domai­ne des San­zay Sau­mur-Cham­pigny 2020 (Hay­nes, Han­son & Clark, £14.95) is gorgeous.

Plant caber­net franc somewhe­re war­mer and you get a plusher wine, but one that is still aro­ma­tic. That’s why wine­ma­kers in coun­tries like South Afri­ca and Argen­ti­na have been quietly get­ting into caber­net franc – wine­ma­kers love the hedo­nis­tic kick of per­fu­me you get from this grape.

Bru­wer Raats is a flag-bea­rer for caber­net franc in the Cape. He’s been focu­sing on it for more than 20 years and makes delight­ful wines – try Raats Family Wines Jas­per 2019 (Hand­ford, £20.99) which is a blend of 53 per cent caber­net franc with mal­bec, mer­lot, caber­net sau­vig­non and petit ver­dot. Also in Ste­llen­bosch, Gle­nelly Esta­te makes a caber­net franc in its Glass Collec­tion who­se struc­tu­re is remi­nis­cent of a super­char­ged cla­ret (Lea & San­de­man, £14.95).

But perhaps it’s Argen­ti­na that has the big­gest chan­ce of re-popu­la­ri­sing caber­net franc for new drin­kers. The­re, in the sha­dow of the Andes, caber­net franc is cushio­ned and ample, thic­ker and some­ti­mes oaked to bring more tex­tu­re and struc­tu­re. It’s a dif­fe­rent take and one worth trying.

Wines of the week

Tas­te the Dif­fe­ren­ce Mora­dor Caber­net Franc; DV Cate­na Caber­net Franc His­to­ri­co; Gaia Caber­net Franc Organic

Taste the Difference Morador Cabernet Franc 2020

Argen­ti­na (15%; Sainsbury’s, £9)

Rich, oaked and high in alcohol, making for qui­te a chewy and con­cen­tra­ted sty­le. Good for the BBQ.

DV Catena Cabernet Franc Historico 2018

Argen­ti­na (13.5%; Tes­co, £12)

Cate­na is a big name in Argen­ti­nian mal­bec but here turns its exper­ti­se to making a sum­ptuous caber­net franc.

Gaia Cabernet Franc Organic 2019

(Argen­ti­na 14.5%; Vin­ta­ge Roots, £17.95)

Bri­lliant wine from a family domai­ne that has been orga­nic ever sin­ce it was foun­ded in the 1990s by a French­man from the Languedoc.


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