The World's Most Neglected Wines (Part Four): Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley

May 12, 2010

Domaine des Ouches Cab Franc
At my job I have salespeople, while they are pouring wines for me to taste, tell me that a wine "needs food." What I hear, however, is, "This wine is so acidic/tannic that unless you had, respectively, some ceviche to compliment it or a slab of prime rib to tame it, it tastes way out of balance." Am I supposed to tell my customers, "You can buy this wine, but it won't be enjoyable unless you have a specific dish ready to accompany it?"

If you are looking for wines that have zero problem shining in the glass and at the table, seek out Loire Valley Cabernet Francs. The Loire is an expansive wine region in Northern France, and you can find everything from delicate to robust whites, sublime sweet wines, sparkling wines, and, yes, reds. You probably won't see "Cabernet Franc" on the label of any French wine, so look for these village names: Bourgueil (where the wine pictured, the Domaine des Ouches "20", comes from), Saumur-Champigny, and Chinon. What I love about these Cab Francs is that they have great balance; this is due in part to the cooler climate of the Loire and I think a certain regional winemaking philosophy that shows a lot of restraint. They have great fruit and the right amount of acidity and tannin (lively, rather than gum-searing); I find them to be the definition of "medium-bodied." Cabernet Franc as a grape, and specifically its expression in Loire Valley wines, also has really distinctive secondary characteristics. By that I mean the grape (and the winemaking) gives you more than just fruit flavors. Again, I'm going to be a bit coy about describing what I think these characteristics are, as I would prefer to have you go out and pick up a bottle and decide for yourself.

Side note: I was very tempted to make this wine my second entry in the Label Lust series. French wine labels can be so old-fashioned, and the 20 is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The "20" on the label is a play on the similarly-sounding French words for twenty (vingt) and wine (vin).

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Jameson Fink is a wine buyer at a bustling grocery store in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. He moved to Seattle from Chicago (where he dabbled in the restaurant and wine industries) five years ago to pursue a full-time career in wine. He’d rather be drinking Champagne and eating popcorn right now.



heidi's picture

Count me as a big cab-franc fan. Friendly without food, yes, but I definitely have my favorite pairings. Try pasta cacio e pepe and tell me what you think.

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