Cab Franc is a grape that for many years was overlooked as a blending grape, but it’s so much more than that. Yes, you find it in Bordeaux blending into the red blends there, but in the Loire? Well, that’s where it shines.
Cab Franc is suited to cool climates, which is why it thrives in the Loire. When made into wine it holds its acid well allowing it great aging capabilities.
Cabernet Franc is known by the name “Breton” in the Loire Valley and here is the most widely planted grape with over 44,000 acres.
We are traveling the world with Cabernet Franc this month with the #WinePW group, led by Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm. Over a dozen of us will be writing pieces, tasting, and pairing Cab Franc from all sorts of places. There is a list of all of my colleagues’ pieces below.
If you are reading this early enough, join us on Saturday, December 12th at 8 am PST or a more reasonable 11 am if you are on the East coast, as we chat about all things Cab Franc! To join the conversation just follow and use the hashtag #WinePW on Twitter that morning!
The Cab Francs
We tasted 2 Cabernet Francs. One is from the Loire Valley and one from Leah Jørgensen our favorite Pirate Princess in Oregon.
The Saumur Champigny AOC is a small appellation that is for red wine only. These red wines must be Cabernet Franc driven at a minimum of 85% with the remaining 15% from Cabernet Sauvignon or Pineau d’Aunis.
While we mentioned before that Cab Franc thrives in cool climates, this nook nestled between the Loire River and the Thouet tributary has a hot microclimate in the summer. “it is possible that the name Champigny may derive from the Latin ‘campus igni’ – field of fire.” Vins Val de Loire
Val de Loire Réserve des Vignerons 2017 Saumur Champigny
This wine is made by a co-operative called the Cave de Saumur. Cave de Saumur was founded by 40 growers in 1956.
Now with 160 growers around the town of Saumur that focus on sustainable viticulture with each grower signing an action plan to conserve water, and biodiversity.
They own 10 km of cellars and a modern winery built in 2000.
100% Cab Franc, 12.5% abv $19.99 SRP
Leah Jørgensen Cellars
Leah Jørgensen is a self-proclaimed “Pirate Princess”. You can read it on her business card. She charts new waters in winemaking. After settling in the Willamette Valley, did she make Pinot Noir? No, she decided to champion the grapes of the Loire.
Leah comes to wine with a great love for the wines of the Loire having worked with Joe Dressner who had an amazing portfolio of Loire Valley wines.
She has championed Cab Franc and bottled a Blanc de Cab Franc that was the first still white Cabernet Franc in the world and a wine which you should most definitely seek out. She believes that some of the best blocks of Cabernet Franc in the country are in Southern Oregon.
When I met her a few years ago, we spoke about how the Loire influenced her and the differences and similarities between the Loire and Southern Oregon soils.
“…we are definitely inspired by the Loire Valley, but we are very fully aware that Southern Oregon is not the Loire Valley… We have points of reference, reasons why we can grow some of the same varietals. With Southern Oregon, looking at some of the vineyard sites that we have like Crater View Ranch which we work with, with our Malbec, our Sauvignon Blanc, and some of our Cab Franc, there’s ancient marine shellfish, shell imprints, shell fossils, and blueschist, ocean bottom rock and this is all present from a subduction that happened 250 million years ago…The stuff that we are seeing in those vineyards in the Rogue and Applegate, but especially in these particular vineyards in the Rogue, they even predate the Old World. When we think of the Loire Valley, my inspiration, Paris used to be under a tidal basin, so all of the waters that were in that tidal basin around Paris are now the vineyards for the Loire valley. So you find shellfish and ancient marine fossils in some of the vineyards of the Loire Valley. That episode, when the water was all in those vineyards in that area, that was about 100 million years ago, So our geological episode happened 150 million years before that, so Old World, right? I’m really proud of that, I love talking about these soil series and the ancient marine shellfish because I think it’s a new dawn for Oregon wine to talk about other regions that have really fascinating geological stories. So that’s really the inspiration for me, capturing the sense of place and the soils and then also the grapes that seem to make sense, Cab Franc Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc.”
Leah Jørgensen Cellars 2016 Cabernet Franc – Southern Oregon
Leah notes that this wine was made with a whimsical nod to the Loire Valley.
100% Cabernet Franc, 14% abs $29.99 SRP
While this wine is no longer available, you can find her 2018 vintage on her site.
Her whimsical labels will have you wanting a whole collection.
So should we compare?
I tasted the Saumur Champigny first. It was slightly lighter in color than the Leah Jørgensen wine and had notes of tobacco, black cherry, red plum, eucalyptus, and raspberry. Dry and medium in body, tannins, and flavor this had high acid and flavors of tart berries and red fruit.
The Leah Jørgensen Cabernet Franc is a 2016, so a year older. It was deeper in color with a nose of black currant, red cherry, grilled meats, eucalyptus, and smoke. Dry with again, medium body and tannins and high acidity In my mouth I got red fruit, mint, and tobacco. This was more lush and full than the Saumur Champigny, and dare I say, a little louder?
But wait! There’s more!
I will admit that my tasting was a tad underwhelming. I had not decanted and Cab Franc can take some time to open up. So the following evening, I poured the wines again.
On the Saumur Champigny the nose, while still restrained opened to pencil shavings then a burst of spicy pepper, like a hot pepper cut open. That faded and then it opened to garrigue and a smokiness, like burning a pile of brush.
The Leah Jørgensen hit me first on this day with bramble fruit and spice followed by a scent, like hay drying in the sun after a rain. There were savory spices, dried herbs, and dried rose petals. On the palate, there was more fruit, like blackberry juice.
Oh, what a difference a day makes.
Pairing with Cab Franc – a cheese plate counts for dinner right?
We tasted these wines with an epic cheese platter. I know, it’s Wine Pairing Weekend and that might seem a little lame, but my pantry was thin on good pairing ideas and quite honestly, I was tired. Luckily, my fridge and pantry were up to the task on an epic cheese plate.
Cab Franc is known for pairing with Brie and camembert, goat cheese, and blue cheese. So some of those were included in our cheese platter dinner.
Bleu cheese stuffed green olives, white cheddar, summer sausage, brie, prosciutto, bleu cheese, pepper onion jelly, pistachios, comte, fresh strawberry, goat cheese, blackberry, mustard, cranberry sauce (yes, I still have some left and it’s great on a cheese board!), walnuts, and almonds.
Only a couple of things were “meh”. The pistachios and the prosciutto just didn’t do anything. Not bad, mind you, just well, “meh”. Everything else went fine. There were a couple of Yeps and Yep Yeps. The Bleu cheese, the strawberry, and the mustard got Yeps. I noted that the freshness of the strawberry brightened the wine. The goat cheese got a Yum and then a little mix of the brie with the pepper jelly got a Yep Yep when paired with Leah’s Cabernet Franc.
Dinner pairing ideas (if you want to cook)
The Saumur Champigny I would pair with pork or chicken dishes, or fish. More specifically, I think this would go great with that rainbow trout we had just a while back. It would also be good for Thanksgiving, pairing well with the cranberry and dark meat turkey and tomato-based dishes, I’m wondering about a cioppino?
I asked Leah (via IG) what she would pair with her Southern Oregon Cab Franc
“pizza, pasta with any red sauce (esp Arrabbiata), roast chicken with roast root vegetables, Nordic food (smørrebrod).”
Okay… smørrebrod. I had to refresh my memory on what this was, so I thought I would do the same for you. Smorrebrod is a traditional open-faced Scandinavian sandwich. Buttered bread in rye or a dark dense brown bread with cold cuts, meat or fish, cheese or spread and then garnishes, like capers, sprouts, pickled onions, radishes, hard-boiled egg…the list of possibilities is endless.
Great…now I’m really hungry. I suppose though what this really means, is that this wine can pair widely!
More on Cab Franc from the Crew at #WinePW
I am lucky enough to get to collaborate with these amazing writers in the #WinePW group each month. This month you will find us writing about Cab Franc from all over the world! Take a look below to see the varieties of places you can find Cab Franc is grown and an even wider selection of pairing ideas!
- Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Honey-Lemon-Sesame Drizzled Plancha’d Veggies + Garzón 2018 Reserva Cabernet Franc
- A Day in the Life on the Farm – Hungarian Short Ribs Paired with Dracaena Cab Franc
- The Quirky Cork – Francly Turkish! Turkish Cab Franc & Lamb Chops
- Grape Experiences – Crush on Cabernet Franc!
- Exploring the Wine Glass – Championing for Cabernet Franc; The True Underdog
- Cooking Chat – Easy Bibimbap Recipe with Cab Franc Wine Pairing
- The Swirling Dervish – Biodynamic Bourgueil from Laurent Herlin for #WinePW
- My Full Wine Glass – Old World vs New World Cab Franc: Game On!
- Always Ravenous – Cabernet Franc Paired with the Flavors of Persian Cuisine
- Enofylz – Domaine Bousquet Gaia Cabernet Franc Paired with Sausage and Potato Pan Roast
- Wine Predator – Cab Franc Thrives in California: Examples from Santa Ynez, Sonoma, El Dorado, Paso Robles #WinePW and St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil’s Amirault “Le Vau Renou” 2016 Cabernet Franc
- Avvinare – Cab franc in Friuli Venezia Giulia
- Somm’s Table – Old World/NewWorld Cab Franc Explorations
More by Crushed Grape Chronicles on Cabernet Franc and Leah Jorgensen Cellars
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.