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Cabernet Franc is a grape variety often used in Bordeaux style blends alongside Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But Cabernet Franc is also made as a single varietal wine. Its signature herbal and green characteristics, and notable acidity and moderate tannins make it a food-friendly wine, inspiring me to pair it with flavors of Persian cuisine influenced with herbs and spices.
This month the Wine Pairing Weekend group is tasting Cabernet Franc wines from around the world and pairing them with enticing food pairings. Join our Twitter chat on Cabernet Franc and Food Pairings, Saturday, December 12th, 2020, at 11:00 Am ET. Follow the conversation using hashtag #WinePW. Don’t miss other articles from the group at the bottom of this post.
Cabernet Franc Profile
Cabernet Franc is also known as; Bouchet, Bouchy, Breton, and Carmenet in France and Bordo and Cabernet Frank in Italy.
Styles can vary from medium to full-bodied, dry to off-dry, still and sparkling to dessert and ice wines.
Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc wines tend to be lighter in body, tannin, and color, but well structured, elegant, with high red fruit aromas and often herbaceous and spicy notes.
Flavors: Currant, raspberry, strawberry, bay leaf, mint, violet, smoke, toast, vanilla, dust, graphite, pencil shavings, forest floor, licorice, bell pepper, cedar, cherry, coffee, and tobacco leaf.
Cabernet Franc is grown in: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, and the U.S.A.
Cabernet Franc displays more herbaceous and vegetal characteristics in the cooler climates (Bordeaux and the Loire Valley) to rich and juicy notes in the warmer climates (Tuscany and Argentina).
My Tasting and Pairing Notes
2019 Domaine de la Pépière, La Pépie Cabernet Franc, Loire, France
11.5% abv | ~ $20.00 | 100% Cabernet Franc
Domaine de la Pépière was established in 1984 by Marc Ollivier in Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine. The wine is classified as Vin de Pays du Val de Loire as there are no allowances in the Muscadet AOC for red wines. The vineyards are certified organic, on southwest-facing hillsides on granitic soils. The grapes were hand-harvested. Only the free-run juice is used for the wine. Fermentation is spontaneous with indigenous yeasts, followed by about five months of aging in stainless steel. SO2 additions are 3 grams per hectoliter after malolactic fermentation.
Medium purple in color with a medium body, medium tannins, and acidity. Aromas of bay leaf, earth, and spices. On the palate, dry with flavors of red currant, red cherry, raspberry, and graphite. Overall a fresh, vibrant tasting wine.
Food Pairings: I paired this with a winter tabbouleh of brussels sprouts, pomegranate seeds, parsley, and mint, sweet potato fries with za’atar and garlic, and green herb chicken. The green herbs and vegetables had a natural affinity with the wine’s vegetal and red fruit characteristics. (Winter Tabbouleh recipe)
2014 Olga Raffault Les Picasses, AOC Chinon, France
12.5 % abv | ~ $32.00 | 100% Cabernet Franc
Since the death of Olga Raffault, the estate is run by her granddaughter Sylvie and her husband, Eric de la Vigerie. Les Picasses is considered the most famous vineyard in Chinon, situated on fairly steep slopes on the Vienne River’s north bank. The organically certified 40-50-year-old vineyards are south facing on chalky clay-limestone soils. The grapes are hand-harvested, with a 30-day maceration, and fermented in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for a minimum of 2 years in large neutral oak sometimes chesnut. The wine is then bottle aged until deemed ready for release, a minimum of four years. 3 grams of SO2 is added per hectoliter at harvest and another 1 to 3 grams at bottling.
Medium ruby in color with a hint of garnet. Medium body and tannins with medium(+) acidity. Aromas of violets, red currant, dried herbs, and spices. On the palate, dry with red currant, dusty, vegetal, and mineral characteristics. A well structured wine with a lingering flinty finish.
Food Pairings: This wine paired exceptionally well with the Persian cheese board of feta cheese wrapped in fresh herbs and the green herb chicken. The wine’s vegetal and mineral characteristics were a compatible match to the herbs and lighter protein of the chicken. (Green herb chicken and sweet potato fries recipes from “Simply,” Sabrina Ghayour.)
2014 Ampeleia, Costa Toscana Rosso, Tuscany, Italy
13.5% abv | ~ $35.00 | 100% Cabernet Franc
Ampeleia is the collaboration of three friends, Elisabetta Foradori, Giovanni Podini, and Thomas Widmann. The estate is located on the Tuscan coast of Maremma, overlooking the medieval village of Roccatederighi. The organically certified and biodynamically farmed vineyards are planted at three different levels of altitude ranging from 200 to 600 meters above sea level. The Cabernet Franc vines are mostly at higher altitudes with a milder climate. The estate soil types include; loamy, sandy soils with fragments of shale rock and marl enriched by light ferrous veins, volcanic rock, clay pebbles, and other minerals that form a gravelly surface layer providing water drainage. The grapes are fermented in truncated cone-shaped oak tanks and concrete vats with an average maceration time of 10-20 days. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 15-16 months before bottling.
Deep ruby in color with a hint of garnet. Medium(+) body and tannins with medium acidity. Aromas of brambly fruit, violet, earth, and spice. On the palate, dry with notes of black cherry, forest floor, vegetal notes and minerals. Lingering vegetal and minerality notes in the finish.
Food Pairings: This is a food-friendly wine. It made a great pairing to the winter tabbouleh, sweet potato fries, green herb chicken, and the lamb meatloaf (pictured below and recipe below) loaded with red bell pepper, herbs, and spices. The vegetal bridging elements in the food and wine set it up for a successful pairing.
2016 El Enemigo, Mendoza, Argentina
13.5% abv | ~ $28.00 | 92% Cabernet Franc and 8% Malbec
Bodega Aleanna – El Enemigo was founded in 2007 as a joint venture of Adrianna Catena and Alejandro Vigil, head winemaker of Bodega Catena Zapata. The vineyards are located in the Valle de Uco appellation at an elevation of 4620-4851 feet. The soils are calcareous and rocky. The grapes were macerated for 28 days and aged in French oak barrels (20% new) for 16 months.
Deep ruby in color with a hint of purple. Medium(+) body and tannin, and medium acidity. Aromas of cassis, currants, black pepper, and cloves. On the palate, dry with red currant, cassis, vanilla, cedar, and spices. Well balanced with a long lingering rich finish.
Food Pairings: Bison Steak tartines with basil and paprika butter were a heavenly match. The rich, juicy bison steaks with sautéd red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, fennel seeds, and basil on toasted sourdough bread echoed flavors in the wine for this tasty fantastic pairing. The bonus is the ease of preparing the tartines. (recipe below)
Sources used: “Daring Pairings,” Evan Goldstein, “Wine Folly,” Madeline Puckette, wine-searcher.com
For the meatloaf
- 1 lb. ground lamb (20% fat)
- 1 small white onion, finely minced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely minced
- 1 + cup Italian parsley, stems removed and leaves finely chopped (extra for serving)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
- generous grindings of fresh black pepper
- tortilla wraps or flat bread
- thinly sliced red onion
- parsley and mint, roughly chopped
- Greek plain yogurt
- Preheat the oven to the highest setting, around 500 F
- Use a cast-iron baking dish about 8-inches in diameter.
- In a large shallow bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatloaf. Using your hands, mix together all the ingredients until you have a smooth even paste.
- Press the meat into the cast-iron baking dish to cover the bottom. Bake for 18 minutes or until golden on top.
- Serve with tortilla wraps or flat bread, sliced red onions, lots of fresh herbs and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Bison Steak Tartines
- Extra virgin olive oil, for sautéing
- 1 large red onion, cut in halve and then cut into 1/4-inch thick half moons
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1-1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained reserve 4-6 pieces for garnish
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 7 oz. bison boneless ribeye steaks or fillets
- 4 large slices sourdough bread, toasted
For the basil and paprika butter
- 4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 oz basil leaves, very finely chopped
- extra basil leaves for garnish
- In a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat, add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and fennel seeds, stirring to coat them with oil. Sauté for about 8 minutes or until onions are charring in places, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, paprika, and basil, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well to combine. Set aside.
- In a small food processor, add the sun-dried tomatoes (minus the 4-6 for garnish) and the yogurt. Process to combine until smooth. Add a little water if necessary.
- Return the cast-iron pan to high heat. Coat the steaks with a little olive oil and season with pepper on both sides. When the pan is very hot, place the steaks in the pan (they should sizzle) and cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked to medium rare. Transfer cooked steaks to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes.
- With a sharp knife, very thinly slice the steaks. Place a small pot over medium heat, add the basil and paprika butter. When the butter is melted, toss the steak slices in the butter. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
- To serve; Spread the tomato yogurt on the toasted bread. Divide the steak slices among the toast, top with the red onion, and garnish with basil leaves and sliced sun-dried tomatoes.
For more Cabernet Franc wines from around the world and food pairings ~
- 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!”
- Crushed Grape Chronicles: “Cab Franc – Sailing the Loire with a Pirate Princess”
- 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 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/New World Cab Franc Explorations”