Cabernet Franc coming out of Cabernet Sauvignon’s shadow

By on March 23, 2014

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Cabernet Franc is grown in Red Willow Vineyard in Washington state's Yakima Valley.

One of the first stand-alone Cabernet Francs made in Washington came from Red Willow Vineyard in the western Yakima Valley. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Known as the “third Bordeaux variety,” Cabernet Franc has been a red grape variety of some importance in Washington for the past 20 years.

In its native Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and that has often been its role in the New World, too. Now, however, we are seeing many winemakers bottling Cab Franc on its own and producing exciting wines.

Among the first Cabernet Francs bottled as a stand-alone wine came from Columbia Winery in Woodinville, Wash., using grapes from famed Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.

Often lighter-bodied than Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc typically shows fascinating flavors of berries and notes of herbs. It can be just as rich as Cabernet Sauvignon but often with milder tannins.

Cabernet Franc is Washington’s fourth-most-important grape variety, after Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Last fall, winemakers crushed 3,400 tons of Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Franc also is renowned for its red wines from the Loire Valley’s Chinon region. These wines often are much different than one might expect from the Bordeaux region, and a few winemakers are starting to emulate this style.

Here are a few Northwest Cabernet Francs we’ve enjoyed in recent months.

About Great Northwest Wine

Articles authored by Great Northwest Wine are co-authored by Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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