Cabernet Franc is a variety of rising importance in the
Okanagan and Similkameen valleys.
That prompted the British Columbia Wine Appreciation Society
to put together a comparative blind tasting this week, pitting eight B.C.
Cabernet Francs against four from elsewhere in the world.
The winner, by a wide margin, was the Tinhorn Creek Oldfield
Selection Cabernet Franc 2010. Tinhorn Creek has been making Cabernet Franc
since 1996 but this was the winery’s first reserve tier example.
With a few minor exceptions, no Cabernet Franc was planted in
prior to 1992. It has disappeared mostly into Meritage blends until recently,
when we have begun to see more and more varietals released.
The 2011 vineyard census shows that there were 517 acres (209
hectares) of Cabernet Franc growing in BC, making in the number five red after
Merlot (1,600 acres), Pinot Noir (949 acres), Cabernet Sauvignon (755 acres)
and Syrah (545 acres).
A new census is expected to be done this summer. I think it
will show that Cabernet Franc has moved ahead of Syrah. Growers have pulled out
some Syrah because of issues with viruses and vine decline, and Cabernet Franc
often is the choice to replace it.
This is confirmed by the 2012 British Columbia Wine Grape
Crop Report. Cabernet Franc has moved into fourth place, in tonnage harvested,
ahead of Syrah. The tonnage of Cabernet Franc that year was 1,371 compared to
1,327 tons of Syrah.
The reasons for Cabernet Franc’s rise:
Franc is more winter hardy than Syrah.
Franc ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Franc, grown well, makes very interesting red wines.
It does reflect the terroir. The Ontario
and the French wine in this tasting
are from cooler terroirs than the others. There is 600 hectares of the variety
cooler terroirs, the vegetal side of Cabernet Franc tends to assert itself. As
the results show, the palates of a Vancouver
audience find riper wines from warmer climates more appealing.
It is an ancient variety with such a complex history that it
is hard to say whether it originated in Spain of France. The only certainty is
that it is the parent both of Cabernet Sauvignon and of Carmenère. It is the
sixth most widely planted variety in France. It shins on its own in the Loire
and is usually part of the blend in Bordeaux
Here is how the tasters ranked the wine;
Oldfield’s Selection 2010 ($34.99). Here are my notes when I reviewed this wine on
its release last year: The wine begins with appealing aromas of vanilla,
plum, black berry and black currants. There is a satisfying gob of sweet berry
flavours on the palate – flavours of blackberry, raspberry, spice and tobacco.
The finish just won’t quit. The wine is drinking well now but will age well for
another seven years. 93.
Cabernet Franc 2009 ($19). This was a bargain from Argentina.
Personally, I think the group over-scored the wine but it is a pleasant bottle
all the same.
Poplar Grove Cabernet Franc 2009 ($34.90). Bold and ripe, this is a rich and satisfying
wine with not a trace of Cabernet Franc’s feared veggie notes.
Cabernet Franc 2011
($33). Another bold and ripe wine in the classic
Burrowing Owl style.
Winery Small Lots Cabernet Franc 2011 ($29.99).
This is made with grapes from the Similkameen Valley
. Another big, ripe red that I
thought a delicious wine to drink.
Church & State Cabernet Franc 2010
($25 but sold
out). The touch of mint on the nose reminded us this was a Cabernet Franc.
Hester Creek Cabernet
Franc Reserve 2010
($28.95). A seductive wine. I scored higher than the
The Franc Cabernet Franc 2012
($26.99). This California
winery makes Cabernet Franc both from Lodi
grapes. This is the Lodi
Fairview Cellars Cabernet Franc 2011
($29.90). The winery makes about 300 cases a year and has a solid
following for this varietal. The bad news is that a hailstorm slightly reduced
the winery’s Cabernet Franc yield in 2013.
Cellars Collector’s Series Cabernet Franc 2011
($29). This is a
brambly, spicy wine.
Vineland Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010
($40). I liked
this wine better than the group. I think the notes of mint and red berries are
typical Ontario Cabernet Franc.
Baudry Chinon 2010 ($26.47). This
wine was an unexpected disappointment, marred by both excessive vegetal
flavours and by a disturbing amount of brettanomyces.