SPLURGE Sassicaia, by Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri, will set you back €200 or more, depending on the vintage.
There’s something rather charming about autumn. A season that is not really apt for Rosé, and possibly a little too early to pop the cork of that port your father-in-law presented you last Christmas. A season where the leaves change colour, and so does your wine. The transition from our summer Sauvignons to comforting Cabernets is nearly upon us.
Cabernet Franc – the grape many have drunk but never truly understood – is the fitting autumn tipple for the adventurous connoisseur. The tranquil parent of superstar wine cabernet sauvignon and well-known for appearing in Bordeaux reds in blends (offering pepper aromas, earthiness and complexity), Cab Franc excels when it stands alone as a single variety in the bottle.
It’s home now is in the cool-climate Loire Valley in central France, where its grapes grow in the appellations of Chinon, Bourgueil and my favourite place, Saumur Champigny.
Locally named here as ‘Cabernet Breton,’ these Cab Francs will have moderately low tannin levels, medium to high acidity and a character profile of cherry, oregano, tomato and pepper. A few years of age (between five and ten) will add complexity to these wines also: the acidity will soften and a drier, mature fruit character will evolve within.
Looking for something silky with structure and finesse? The Cabernet Franc from Domaine des Roches Nueves (Saumur Champigny AOP), produced by Thierry Germain and available in Ireland for approximately €25, is a real delight.
But don’t be afraid to travel further for a good Cabernet Franc. The wine from warm climate regions like Tuscany and California shines too.
Italy, the second biggest producer (by country) of Cab Franc worldwide, produces most of the crop up north in the area of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The finest expressions of the grape, however, come further south in Tuscany, where it thrives within ‘SuperTuscan’ wines (wines that may include the use of non-indigenous grapes, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and of course Cabernet Franc).
Considered by many as the pinnacle of the SuperTuscan portfolio and one of Italy’s greatest, Sassicaia, by Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri, is 15 percent Cabernet Franc and 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. However, if you fancy a tipple, you’ll probably need a winning flutter at the Galway Races in the bank, as a bottle of this wine will cost you somewhere around €200.
As versatile in quality as it is in price, Cabernet Franc merits a punt. Its soft, subtle and spicy nature makes it a perfect ‘food wine’ too. Try it with simple tomato-infused dishes, like pizza with mozzarella cheese, black olives and oregano. I promise it’ll be a winner.
> Philip Dunne is Head Sommelier at Ashford Castle, Cong. Trained by the Court of Master Sommeliers, he is part of the team voted the Best Wine Experience in Ireland 2016 at the Restaurant Association Awards in Ireland.