Family Feud: Cabernet Franc VS Cabernet Sauvignon
Apr 25th 2018
Strange title don't you think? Well, not entirely. While teetering on the verge of making this article read like an awkward bird and bees story: here is essentially all you need to know about these mighty Cabernet grapes.
Once upon a time kids, Cabernet Franc fell in love with the beautiful zesty and herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc. In the maritime climate of France, probably Bordeaux. They made a little rascal and named him Cabernet Sauvignon. Fitting. A happy accident for many vignerons and wine lovers because back then we knew very little about cross-breeding and cloning.
Side note: Cabernet franc is also responsible for Malbec and Carmenére.
Fast forward a few centuries and both are grown almost all over the world.Cabernet Sauvignon has managed to grow even in deserts!
So how has the son out rendered the father?
It's all in the body.Quite literary. You see, Franc (let's call him Franc.), is a little soft and loves his colognes. This varietal is expressive on the nose with a peppery aroma mingled with touches of strawberry, roasted red pepper and plum. It has milder tannin than Cabernet Sauvignon (A.K.A, the bod) but make up for that in elegance. It also ripens about a week earlier and performs far better in cooler climates producing wines with fewer vegetal characters than Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Sauvignon on the other hand, can come off a bit bold and rebellious. To its credit, it delivers great extraction of fruit and color. With aromas of mint, bell pepper, asparagus and black currant and plum.Not forgetting the knock-your-teeth-out tannins it known for.
Both are quite hardy and prolific, not picky with the type of soils or even where on earth you choose to cultivate your vines. Nevertheless, that should be unconfused with disease resistance.
Through the years winemakers have embraced ingenious methods of cultivation and winemaking some changing techniques in the winery and experimenting with oak and yeasts, while others strive to match the perfect vineyard block to its ideal varietal. The results of their efforts have sung on our palates.
Though both are well known for the notorious Bordeaux blends, lets steer away from the captivating subtilities skilled French winemakers have entranced us with. Depending on where they are come from, you will find that both these varietals can make starkly different 100% varietal wines.
In cool climate Loire, France, Cabernet Franc thrives to deliver wines with aromas of raspberry, red bell pepper and wet gravel. They are of moderate to high acidity and tannin and delicious flavours of sour cherry with the sizzle of sweet pepper.
Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux is more herbal than fruity with some mineral/granite. The nose is earthy with violets, tobacco box and black cherries. They are more tannic than their New World counterparts and make superb wines for long term cellaring.
Fun fact: Hungary is speculated to be the 'new home' of Cabernet Franc after France. Here it obtains wine of moderate to high tannin, extensive body and aromas rich with spice, black berry and red fruits with ageing potential of up to 10 years. They are aged in Hungarian oak between 12 to 18 months. Look for wines from Villány and Szekszárd.
Canada has succeeded in making Cabernet Franc Ice wine thanks to its early ripening. Tuscany, warms up both varietals and blends them into 'Super Tuscans'. The Franc being ripe with black cherry, cocoa, leather and mineral.
While sampling any varietal wines or blends of these grapes, take some time to venture out to Argentina. Try their high altitude wines or other gems like Rietvallei Cabernet Franc from South Africa. Either way, you will be pleasantly surprised.