The Explore 4: Cabernet Franc Study

The Explore 4: Cabernet Franc Study

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SommSelect’s “Explore 4” surveys the vast landscape of wine and breaks it into small, digestible bites. Each month, we select four bottles that fit a theme, allowing members to experience a diversity of styles while developing their own palate preferences. It’s an ongoing exploration of wine through a sommelier’s eyes and there’s no more effective, and enjoyable, way to learn about wine

Whenever we devote an Explore 4 to a single grape variety, our first stop is Jancis Robinson’s indispensable book, Wine Grapes. As Robinson notes, Cabernet Franc has long been eclipsed by its “progeny,” Cabernet Sauvignon (in the late 1990s, DNA analysis showed Cabernet Sauvignon to be the result of a crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc). But, as wine lovers have come to embrace the notion that “bigger” is not necessarily better, Cabernet Franc’s more herbaceous perfume and more modest proportions have won it more and more fans. Here is what is in the box:

Fanatic Wine Co., Clarksburg Cabernet Franc 2021

The intent from the start here was to produce a juicy, lighter-weight Cabernet Franc that captures its violet-scented aromatics and red/black fruit without an overly heavy bell pepper component. Founded in 2009, Fanatic has gone all-in on the little-known Clarksburg AVA, just a few miles south of Sacramento, California. The hallmark of this terroir is the intense wind and fog generated by the San Francisco Bay that moves up the Sacramento Delta. This is an easy-drinking style of Cabernet Franc that will take well to a chill. A great choice for outdoor BBQ.

Vignoble Musset-Roullier, Anjou Rouge “Les Neuf Vingt” 2021

Gilles Musset and Serge Roullier first met about 60 years ago, at primary school in the Anjou village of La Pommeraye. In 1991, they decided to merge their estates and formed Vignoble Musset-Roullier.  Hand-harvested grapes are destemmed, briefly cold macerated, then fermented on indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Aging is in tank only, for 15 months. Medium-bodied, juicy, and tangy, it’s pure joy at 60 degrees in Burgundy stems.

Château Jeandebout, Bordeaux Rouge “Belle Nature” 2020

Sourced from Certified Organic vineyards, located about 30 minutes south of Saint-Émilion, where these vineyards mark the transition from the sandy gravel found closer to the Garonne and the clay/limestone mixture found on the famed plateau around Saint-Émilion. This is 100% Cabernet Franc and what really stands out about this wine is how “Bordeaux” it tastes—there are lots of gravel, graphite, and cigar-box notes, with a blacker cast to the fruit.

Simon di Brazzan, Venezia Giulia Cabernet Franc 2021

Daniele Drius is a fast-rising star on the Friulian wine scene. He inherited a small farm from his grandfather, which is situated right where the Collio and Isonzo del Friuli DOC appellations meet. The interplay of mountain- and sea-borne air is a critical climate feature that helps lengthen the growing season and preserve freshness in grapes. There’s tremendous purity to the fruit, which is balanced perfectly with the earthier, spicy notes that often dominate Cabernet Franc wines, while the texture is more fine-grained and elegant than usual.


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