Cabernet Franc Tutorial
At Sheldrake Point Winery we produce distinctive estate wines that showcase the quality of our Finger Lakes vineyard. Each of our estate wines is crafted to take advantage of the flavor and character of the grapes grown on our 51-acre site overlooking Cayuga Lake (including expected 2017 plantings). One of those grapes is Cabernet Franc. Once we plant 5.5 more acres of the variety this year that will mean Sheldrake Point will devote one third of our total vineyard plantings to Cabernet Franc.
Cabernet Franc Grape & Glass Tutorial
The Cabernet Franc grape is one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon* and Merlot, and originated in the Loire Valley region in northwestern France—a place that shares a lot of climactic similarities to the Finger Lakes region.
*(Bonus Trivia! Cabernet Sauvignon is actually an old, naturally occurring hybrid of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.)
Other than the Loire and Bordeaux region of France, and, of course, the Finger Lakes, Cabernet Franc is also grown in Italy, South America, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, and other parts of the United States.
Classic flavors and aromas of Cabernet Franc often include strawberry, green pepper (capsicum), red plum, and tobacco leaf. Cabernet Franc can be heavy on the herbaceous notes of the pepper family, with additional flavors of oak, black and red fruits, and hints of wet gravel.
Our cooler-climate conditions tend to affect the flavor profile of Cabernet Franc towards sour cherry and roasted pepper, while the warmer climates of Loire and California will produce a profile of ripe strawberry and black raspberry.
Furthermore, when comparing 100% Cabernet Franc in different regions, secondary flavors emerge—Lodi, California, can produce a distinct strawberry jam flavor; Loire, France, echoes of red bell pepper; and notes of leather are often found in the 100% Cabernet Francs of Friuli, Italy.
General profile: medium body, medium+ tannin, medium+ acid, medium alcohol.
Serve: At 65⁰ in a narrow-bowled red wine glass.
Aging: Cellar basic quality Cabernet Franc for up to 5 years, high quality 10-15 years.
Cabernet Franc in the Sheldrake Point Vineyard
“Cabernet Franc is a grape variety that fits our climate, and our wine program, very well,” says Sheldrake Point Vineyard Manager Dave Wiemann.
We planted our Cabernet Franc in a drier part of our vineyard, which is a plus considering those conditions are preferred by the variety. We grow sixty rows, about 8 acres, and we use all but a few tons of our Cabernet Franc grapes for our Rosé production.
We grow two clones of Cabernet Franc. One of those clones, Clone 1, is destined entirely for Rosé.
“A known feature of this clone is that is has very little tannins,” says Dave. “That’s a downside for red wines, but this clone also produces bigger berries for fresher fruit flavors. It’s a good match for making our Rosé.” We grow 31 rows, or about 4 acres of Clone 1.
Cabernet Franc: One Versatile Grape
We planted Cabernet Franc originally in 1997 and 1999 with the idea that we would use it to make red wine.
Twenty years later, we make less red wine from our Cabernet Franc, but more and more Rosé. In fact, we added 2,000 new Cabernet Franc vines in spring 2016 to accommodate our expanding Rosé program.
But, it is nice when you plant vines and end up having a lot of options with it.
“Our wine production using Cabernet Franc has run the gamut; from traditional oaked table wine, to light Dry Rosé, to very sweet and special Ice Wines,” says Sheldrake Point winemaker Dave Breeden. “Few grapes are that versatile, rivaled only by Riesling, and people don’t think of a red grape this way.”
Sheldrake Point has used the Cabernet Franc grape for 7 different wines over the years:
- Our classic Cabernet Franc varietal
- As the basis for our Luckystone Red blend
- Cabernet Franc Ice Wine. We last made it in 2013, and are making it again in 2017.
- Meritage, a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot
- Dry Rosé (2016 is on the bottling line now!)
- A nouveau, similar in style to a Beaujolais Nouveau, but made with Cabernet Franc instead of Gamay (no longer made).
- Reserve Cabernet Franc, made in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2008. Some of these vintages are available for purchase in our wine library, the Vintage Room. (Contact us for availability.)