Tasting French wine – Loire Cabernet Franc

Tasting French wine – Loire Cabernet Franc

It ranks 17th in the world in terms of number of hectares planted and yet it barely registers as an option when people are deciding what red wine to buy. Why is this? Perhaps it’s just less flashy than its flashier offspring, the deeper coloured Cabernet Sauvignon, and more structured than the soft, plummy Merlot, the two varieties with which it is most often combined to produce Bordeaux blends around the world. In fact, it is only in a few parts of the world where this aromatic, fruity wine shines as a variety in its own right. One such place is the Loire and recently I tried two Loire Cabernet Franc wines and compared them with a Chilean Cabernet Franc made in the Loire style.

Loire Cabernet FrancBernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges 2015, from the Chinon appellation in the Loire, 12% ABV. Available in Chile from Edwards Fine Wines for CLP$11,900

This wine was made with organic grapes in a fresh, fruity style with no oak and is designed for early drinking.

The three wines in this tasting were all a modest ruby colour, as you can see in the photo above.

This was a little slow to open, revealing gentle aromas of fresh red and black fruit (redcurrants, raspberries, cherries, blackcurrants, blackberries), a slight note of spice, like vanilla and some herbaceous notes, like celery. After some time, the wine became quite fragrant, almost floral (violets).

This wine was quite an easy-drinking, dry, fruity red wine with medium levels of acidity, medium, fine tannins and moderate alcohol and body. The mouth revealed that slight note of celery that was apparent on the nose, together with soft red and black fruit. The finish was medium.

Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Grézeaux 2012 from the Chinon appellation in the Loire. 12% ABV. Available in Chile from Edwards Fine Wines for CLP$14,400

This wine was made with organic grapes from an area of stony gravel over clay-silica subsoil, thought to provide a minerality to the wine. The vines are around 50 years old, so yields will be lower and the grapes express greater concentration and, as they are likely to have deep roots, they are likely to express the minerality of their terroir. The wine was aged for 12 months in used French oak barrels to soften the tannins and add body, without introducing new aromas and flavours. The wine was not filtered and is designed to be aged in bottle for 10 years or more.

As with the other Loire wine, this was a little shy to open and the first notes were with mineral aromas of clay and pencil shavings and subtle aromas of dried fruit (cranberries). However, as the wine evolved in the glass, notes of fresh black fruit (blueberries and blackcurrants) became apparent. There was a slight herbaceous note (grass?). The only secondary aroma was a subtle sweet spicy note, possibly from the oak-ageing and the first signs of the bottle-ageing were coming through, in the form of tobacco, leather and coffee.

This was similar to the other Loire wine in being a dry, medium style of wine with nothing too prominent (medium body, medium, fine tannins, medium alcohol and flavour intensity). The acidity was high, making the wine refreshing, without being intrusive. The palate was quite complex, showing minerality and dried fruit like dried cranberries, sour cherries, dried blueberries, probably due to the bottle-ageing. The tertiary notes of tobacco and coffee were also evident. The finish was long.  An enjoyable and fairly versatile wine which would be nice with a red meat or cheese-based meal.

Loma Larga Lomas del Valle Cabernet Franc 2014, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 14% ABV. Reference price in Chile CLP$10,900. 

Loma Larga in Chile’s Casablanca Valley specializes in cool climate reds and has deliberately aimed for a Loire style with this unoaked Cabernet Franc.  Hand-harvested and made in the Loire style. Cold 5-day maceration, then warmed to 18°C  and yeasts added. 3 daily pump-overs and 1 rack and return. 20% of grapes were vinified using carbonic maceration. 5-8 days post-fermentative maceration

The nose was rich in sweet, ripe black fruit (blueberries, blackcurrants) with some herbaceous notes (green pepper, green chilli pepper) and a spicy note like black pepper.

Like the two Loire Cabernet Franc wines, this was a restrained, easy-to-drink wine, dry with medium, fine, ripe tannins, medium body and high alcohol. The high acidity made the palate refreshing and the mouth revealed black fruit (blueberries, blackcurrants), herbaceous notes of green pepper and a cigarbox texture. Medium finish. This was a very enjoyable wine.

For information about other French wines, check out this post:

Tasting French wine – Bordeaux and SW France

Tasting French wine – Loire Chenin Blanc

Tasting French wine – fruity white Alsace wines

Have you tried a Cabernet Franc recently? What did you think?

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