Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How did I miss this one?

I came across a great Cabernet Franc article from the San Francisco Chronicle by Jon Bonné today, and I can't believe it took me nearly six weeks to find it since it had been published. It has all the makings of a blockbuster Cab Franc article. Without giving away every delicious detail, here a few of the highlights:

- An obligatory reminder that Franc is the progenitor of Cabernet Sauvignon.
- A top Washington winemaker quoted saying, "[Cabernet Franc] has a texture, a mouthfeel, a silkiness that Cabernet Sauvignon doesn't have, period. And it has a complexity that you don't get in Cabernet Sauvignon."
- The suggestion the Cab Franc is like Pinot Noir in its delicacy and complexity of expression.
- Mention of Chinon producer extraordinaire Charles Joguet.
- A tribute to the breadth of regions that Cab Franc calls home.
- Discussion of varietal characteristics and their dependence on terroir.
- The misunderstood underdog card is played several times.
- Some ego stroking for Franc aficionados.

The only real negative is that every wine in the tasting notes with the exception of the Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc is priced rather extravagantly. I'm certainly not going to argue that there is a correlation between price and quality. But many of the French producers listed (without accompanying tasting notes) at the very end of the article offer high quality entry level cuveés for around $20 that typically display Cabernet Franc honestly and purely, albeit often in a decidedly more rustic style.

If you desire a world class Cabernet Franc with only the best barrels or vineyard blocks selected and a generous impression of new French oak from a producer with a proven track record, then $40-$60 is going to be your lower boundary in terms of pricing regardless of whether the producer is French or American. But one can find good Cabernet Franc under $30, though like with Pinot Noir the $15-$30 price range is not easy to navigate with a perfect success rate. This is where critics can be most helpful. At higher price points quality is more consistent, and reviews mainly serve to differentiate stylistic qualities for the consumer. It's generally more helpful, however, for a critic to differentiate good from mediocre where there are many more options and greater variances in quality, namely the mid-price range.

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