Tasting No. 221 (Virtual) – August 31, 2020 – Cabernet Franc

Club del Vino


Valle de Uco

Tasting Overview

Cabernet Franc Grapes
Courtesy Bordeaux.com

The  tasting is limited to one wine proposed by the presenters according to the existing program that focuses on varietals.    The main objective of the tasting is to find out the salient and specific features of Cabernet Franc and the character of the wines made of this grape. Cabernet Franc is normally found in blends with other red grapes, mostly but not only, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot  (Bordeaux), to contribute aromatic complexity and moderate tannins. Cabernet Franc produces outstanding wines in its own right like the ones found in St. Emilión , the middle Loire and Argentina. Wines made of Cabernet Franc are lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, less tannic, with fruity and herbaceous aromas. They pair very well with almost all kinds beef, poultry, fish and hard or semi soft cheeses.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Orlando Mason, Alfonso Sanchez

The reference wine is:

2017 Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina 

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Jorge Claro, Ruth Connoly, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán,  Alberto Gómez,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago,  Pedro Turina, German Zincke

Information on the Wine

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2107 Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina 

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: The Catena Cabernet Franc Appellation El Cepillo presents a purple color with red ruby tones. The nose offers elegant aromas of spices, and fresh herbs as thyme and rosemary, red berries, cassis and raspberries, with layers of cedar. The mouthfeel is full and rich with cassis, raspberries flavors and notes of black pepper and oregano . The finish is bright and fresh with finely grained tannins. This versatile wine is fantastic paired with rich meat dishes such as stews and braises, Latin dishes with heat and a little kick such as enchiladas or moles and lamb dishes and tomato based pasta and sauces. This wine is also delicious paired with dark chocolate and berries and also served alongside a cheese plate.

RP 92 points: “The Appellation range keeps growing, and the new name this time is the 2016 Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, produced with grapes from the most fashionable red variety at the moment. It is from 20-year-old vines in El Cepillo, one of the cooler places of San Carlos in Valle de Uco. Furthermore, 2016 was a particularly cool year, so the wine is really a “cool climate” example. It matured in French oak barrels for one year before bottling. It has tons of black pepper aromas and flavors, balsamic and with perfect ripeness. 2016 has produced outstanding wines in this Appellation range.

 Vinous 91 points: Moderately saturated red-ruby. Aromas of plum, herbs and peppery spices. Silky, fine-grained and light on its feet, conveying a pronounced peppery herb element but also lovely intensity and floral lift to its dark berry, licorice and dark chocolate flavors. Finishes with broad, ripe, tooth-dusting tannins and terrific spicy length. This wine can’t quite match the 2017 version for concentration or suavity but still offers terrific typicity and savory minerality. A superb example of 2016.

The Winery: Bodega Catena Zapata is one of Argentina’s high altitude Malbec pioneers. The Catena family began making wine in Mendoza in 1902. Nicolas Catena, third generation family vintner, was one of the first to see the potential of Mendoza’s mountain vineyards for producing high quality Malbec. In 1994, he became the first Argentine to exprot a world-class bottling of Malbec under the Catena label. Nicolas is joined by his daughter, Dr. Laura Catena, in their relentless pursuit of world-class quality from the family’s high altitude vineyards. Laura has done extensive work in introducing Malbec and other varietal plant selections, soil and climate analysis, and sustainable practices throughout Mendoza. Head winemaker, Alejandro Vigil, has been at Catena Zapata since 2002 and works with Laura and Nicolas to make wines that express the family’s vineyards and palate.

K&L Notes: Over the past five or so years, Catena has been fine tuning their range, producing wines of more specific origin from their vast vineyard holdings. Originally planted in 2007, these 20 hectares of Cabernet Franc (which Laura Catena notes, is the same acreage that Cheval Blanc has planted to the variety!) represent a significant investment, though not a surprising one given the grape’s popularity and proven ability to produce very good wine in the Uco Valley.

The Mendoza Wine Region.

(These notes are compiled and edited from various internet sources mostly Wine Searcher and Wine.com)

Mendoza Province, responsible for over 70% of the Argentina’s wine production, is divided into several distinctive wine making sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. It is the source of some of the country’s finest wines. Most large wineries are in the provincial capital of Mendoza.

For many wine lovers, Mendoza is practically synonymous with Malbec. Originally a Bordelaise variety brought to Argentina by the French in the mid-1800s, here it found success and renown that it never knew in its homeland where a finicky climate gives mixed results. Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir are all widely planted here as well (and sometimes even blended with each other or Malbec). Mendoza’s main white varieties include Chardonnay, Torrontés, and Sauvignon Blanc.

The pink-skinned grapes of Criolla Grande and Cereza account for more than a quarter of all planting. Criolla is used to produce deeply colored white wine. It is sometimes used to produce a light-colored rosé. The grape is rarely exported outside of Argentina where it is used to produce massive quantities of box and jug wines.

Vineyards are planted at some of the highest altitudes in the world, in the eastern foothills of the Andes, in the shadow of Mount Aconcagua,  with the average site located 600–1,100 meters (2,000–3,600 ft) above sea level. Altitude is one of the most important characteristics of the Mendoza terroir. The strip of vineyard land that runs along the base of the Andes lies between 800 and 1200 meters (2600 and 3900 ft) above sea level, and it is this altitude that moderates the hot, dry climate of the region. The climate is dry and continental, presenting relatively few challenges for viticulturists during the growing season. Warm, sunny days are followed by nights made much colder by westerly winds from the Andes. This cooling-off period slows ripening, extending the growing season and contributing rich, ripe flavors to the grapes that do not come at the expense of acidity.  There is barely any variation in climatic conditions from year to year, resulting in highly consistent quality of wines produced regardless of the year. Predictable harvests also afford Mendoza’s winemakers the luxury of increased control over the styles of wine they produce – a factor which has contributed to the region’s international reputation.

The soil of the Mendoza wine region is primarily alluvial composed of loose sand over clay. These rocky, sandy soils have little organic matter and are free draining, making them dry and low in fertility. This kind of soil is perfect for viticulture – vines are forced to work hard for hydration and nutrients, and will produce small, concentrated berries in lieu of leafy foliage. The wines produced from grapes grown on these soils are often highly structured, with firm tannins, and have a distinct minerality that is often attributed to the soil.

Mountain rivers provide ample water supplies from melted glaciers in the Andes. Nearly 17,000 wells provide the equivalent of an additional two rivers’ worth of water flow. A system of irrigation channels, canals and reservoirs (some dating to the 16th century) help sustain viticulture in this semi-arid desert region. Irrigation is facilitated by the rivers that cross the region, including the Mendoza itself, which runs down from the mountains. Warm, dry harvest periods mean that winemakers can pick their grapes according to ripeness, rather than being ruled by the vagaries of the weather.

Similar Wines

A participant tasted another Cabernet Franc wine side by side with the reference wine:

2011 Linden Vineyards, Virginia, USA.  Well integrated with black fruit, tobacco, herbs, earth and spices.  More rounded and a bit more complex than the reference wine.  Very good to excellent.

Technical Notes 

Compiled by Jairo Sánchez

(Sources: Wine Folly internet Profile; Wine Folly, The Master Guide Magnum Edition, The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson and Wikipedia).


Cabernet Franc is one of the major red grape varieties worldwide and is the parent grape of both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Cabernet Franc is, with Sauvignon Blanc, one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its origins have been traced to the Basque County of Spain. Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century, although it was planted in the Loire Valley long before that time. Across the world Cabernet Franc is one of the twenty most widely planted grape varieties. Plantings are found throughout Europe, in the New World, Africa Australia, China and Kazakhstan. Close to 90% of world’s Cabernet Franc is produced in France, Italy and the USA with the rest of the world including Hungary, South Africa, Chile and, minor producers like Spain, Canada, Argentine, and others accounts for around 10% of the production.

Cabernet Franc is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style wines, but can also be vinified alone, as in the Loire’s Chinon and sometimes made into ice wine in Canada and the US.

Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.


In general, Cabernet Franc is like Cabernet Sauvignon, but buds and ripens at least a week earlier. This trait allows the vine to thrive in slightly cooler climates than Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Loire Valley. In Bordeaux. Plantings of Cabernet Franc are treated as an “insurance policy” against inclement weather close to harvest that may damage plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its early budding does pose the vinicultural hazard of coulure (a failure of grapes to develop after flowering) early in the growing season. The berries are quite small and blue-black in color, with fairly thin skins.

Cabernet Franc can adapt to a wide variety of vineyard soil types but seems to thrive in sandy, chalk soils, producing heavier, more full-bodied wines there. In the Loire Valley, terroir-based differences can be perceived between wines made from grapes grown in gravel terraces versus those grown in the limestone slopes. The grape is highly yield sensitive, with over-cropping producing wines with more green, vegetal notes.

The Wine

Cabernet Franc is medium-bodied red wine loved for its savory, bell pepper-like flavors, medium-high acidity, and mouthwatering taste. It is an ideal food pairing wine. The Cabernet Franc grape has a thinner skin than Cabernet Sauvignon, so the wines made from Cabernet Franc tend to be lighter in color and lower in tannin.

Wine Profile

Acidity: Medium-high

Tannin: Medium

Alcohol: Medium

Sweetness: Dry

Flavors: Strawberry, Raspberry, Bell Pepper, Crushed Gravel and Chili Pepper

Wine Regions

In many regions, Cabernet Franc is planted as a component of a Bordeaux-style blend such as Meritage, playing secondary role to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In parts of northeast Italy, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine and the right bank region of Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc both plays a more prominent role in blends but is vinted also as a single varietal.

France. The Loire Valley is known for producing exceptional single varietal Cabernet Franc wines in and around the middle Loire Valley (Chinon, Bourgueil, Anjou and neighboring areas). The cooler climate lends itself to wines with lighter color, lighter body, higher acidity, and distinct herbal flavors.

Italy. Tuscany warmer climate gives Cabernet Franc richer fruit flavors. The region’s red clay soils generally increase tannin. Since Cabernet Franc is not an indigenous variety of Italy, wines are declassified to IGP and labeled by variety or made-up name (Supertuscans). Flavors: Cherry. Leather, Strawberry, Licorice, Coffee

California. Sierra Foothills, (Climate conditions like Mendoza, Argentina). The regions of Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, and Fiddletown have warm stable climates that make for ripe, sweeter grapes with lower acidity. Wines are typically fruit-forward and jammy with higher alcohol and subtle whiffs of dried leaves. Flavors: Dried strawberry, Raspberry, Tobacco leaf, Cedar, Vanilla.

Argentina. Cabernet Franc plantings in Argentina have been producing top quality wines in recent years, and the varietal has been claimed as having the most potential in the country after Malbec. Squeeze Magazine has called it “the new, handsome superhero of Mendoza’s wine scene”. In 2014, the highest scoring Argentine wine in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate was a Cabernet Franc scored at 97 points. Cabernet Franc can be bottled alone, making lighter-bodied wines than the country’s typical Malbec or either as a majority or minority in blends.


Franc is a food friendly wine. There are numerous ways you can easily match Cabernet Franc based wines with food. For a few tips, try it with roasted chicken, pork, roasted or grilled, beef, duck, sausage, lamb, veal, hearty fish dishes and even hard as well as soft cheese. Higher Acidity makes it possible to pair Cabernet Franc with tomato-based dishes, vinegar-based sauces like smoky barbecue, or rich black beluga lentils.


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