11 BEST ARGENTINE CABERNET FRANCS
Vinophiles across the world celebrated Cabernet Franc Day, on Monday, December 4, 2023, which commemorates one of the most popular strains on the planet and one of those that have gained the most ground in Argentine viticulture. The country currently has 1,569 hectares of Cabernet Franc, which represents an increase of 150 of its surface area, compared to 2010 when the planted surface was just over 626 hectares. This growth over the last 13 years has made the Cabernet Franc the 10th red variety in total cultivated area and fourth in the ranking of red varieties that have seen increased cultivation for the same period, behind Malbec, Ancellotta and Aspirant Bouschet. Unsurprisingly, 80.6 per cent of the planted vines of this grape variety are found in Mendoza province, with the remaining 19.4 per cent being divided amongst other provinces like San Juan (8.2 per cent), Salta (2.7 per cent), Neuquén (1.9 per cent) and the rest in 11 other provinces.
Cabernet Franc is believed to have been established in Libournais, a region of Bordeaux in south-western France, sometime in the 17th century after being brought there by Cardinal Richelieu. It is said the cardinal transported vine cuttings from the Loire Valley to be planted at Bourgueil Abbey, under the care of an abbot named Breton, whose name became associated with the grape. Later in the 18th century, vineyards of Cabernet Franc (also known as Bouchet) were established in the Fronsac, Pomerol and Saint Emilion areas to produce quality wines. However, as the popularity of the Cabernet Sauvignon grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, the close similarity of the two grapes raised questions and theories emerged about the extent of their relationship. It would not be until 1997 though, that DNA evidence would confirm that Cabernet Franc had been crossed with Sauvignon Blanc in order to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.
This grape is one of the major black varieties worldwide and is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone. 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. The vine is vigorous and upright, with dark-green, five-lobed leaves below which hang winged bunches that are elongated and small-medium in size. The bluish-black berries are quite small with fairly thin skins in a variety that can adapt to a wide range of vineyard soil types despite them seeming to thrive in sandy, chalk soils, resulting in the production of heavier, more full-bodied wines.
In Argentina, Cabernet Franc plantings have been consistently producing top-quality wines and is seen as the varietal having the most potential in the country after Malbec. According to the National Institute of Viticulture, the Argentine domestic market consumed 20,216 hectolitres of this variety in 2021. Exports for the same year exceeded US$10 million with the main destinations being: United States, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.
Thursday Food celebrates the French grape by showcasing 11 of Argentina’s best Cabernet Franc vintages:
Gran Enemigo Gualtallary Cabernet Franc is a complex, 98-point wine comprising 85 per cent Cabernet Franc as well as 15 per cent Malbec. It expresses aromas of cherries, licorice, blueberries and blackberries with traces of fresh herbs, tobacco leaf, ash as well as earthy tones. On the palate it is a textured wine that progresses solidly towards a juicy and smooth centre of the mouth where the tannins are fine and chalky.
Viña Cobos, Chañares Estate Cabernet Franc is a 97-point wine that is a 100 per cent varietal by Viña Cobos, having a colour that is deep violet with ruby reflections. On the nose, it is defined as perfumed by a precise ageing that serves as a contrast for the notes of cherry, ash, cassis, menthol and camphor details with traces of cedar and spices. In the mouth, its attack is enveloping with good energy provided by a vibrant freshnes, while fine-grained tannins add vigour and potential in addition to sustaining a long and fragrant finish.
Rutini Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc is bright violet in colour with balsamic and mountain herb aromas as well as a menthol touch, along with fresh red and black fruits. This 95-point 100 per cent varietal wine also expresses aromas of spices with tobacco leaf, cloves and coriander. On the palate it is meaty, flowing silky and fresh towards the centre of the mouth with character and muscle. The tannins are fine, polished with a juicy finish that is long, fragrant and floral.
Pulenta Estate Gran Cabernet Franc XI, scored 95 points and is a wine that appears purple with ruby reflections having complex aromas where green and red peppers, along with mountain herbs, define its character. This is completed with black fruits, cassis, mint and traces of cedar, tobacco leaf and cloves. It is intense and enveloping, in the mouth, flowing wide and juicy with good freshness and tension as well as firm tannins which underpin it in its long finish.
Polígonos del Valle de Uco Cabernet Franc San Pablo is a 94-point 100 per cent varietal by Familia Zuccardi that is a bright violet-coloured red wine with an interesting aroma that exhibits pure mountain scents of red and black fruits. There are also tones of cassis and cherry, ash and peppers with aromatic herbs in the background. On the palate it is light with good juice and freshness, flowing vibrantly with fine-grained tannins that remain firm, ending in a finish that is long and fragrant.
Kaiken Obertura Cabernet Franc scored 94 points and is a 100 per cent Cabernet Franc that is a deep red wine with herbal and floral character. It is intense with tones of fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary as well as jarilla and menthol. Black fruits like cherries merge with tones of spices such as cloves and cinnamon on a smoky and cedar background. It is abundant with good freshness and balsamic flavours in mouth, with structured, polished tannins and a fragrant finish that imparts a prolonged and herbal freshness.
Zaha Cabernet Franc by Bodega Teho is a 100 per cent varietal that scored 94 points and has a good level of natural acidity which is intense and vibrant on the palate. It is very expressive with aromas of cassis and cherries, fresh herbs, tomato leaf, pink pepper, and roasted bell pepper. This wine approaches the palate with good volume and structure but in the centre of the mouth it is tense and juicy, having tannins that are kind with a chalky texture, and ending in a long finish with fruity aftertaste.
Argento Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc is a bright ruby red 94-point wine with purple nuances. Aromatically intense and complex, it displays floral and wild herbal notes that contrast with fresh red fruit, reminiscent of thyme, lavender, cherries, blueberries and violets. In the mouth it is balanced and full-bodied with vibrant freshness while also being juicy with good flavour. It has a pleasant texture despite the firm, fine-textured tannins and ends in a long and fragrant finish.
Proyecto Las Compuertas Cabernet Franc, by Durigutti Family Winemakers is bright ruby red and displays aromas of fresh fruits such as cherries, blackberries and black plums along with balsamic tones, fresh pepper and green chili. On the palate, this 94-point, 100 per cent varietal is intense with good body and juice, exhibiting a firm structure with fine tannins that define character and a long finish.
Lorenzo Lo Sagrado Cabernet Franc presents itself with intense purple tones, while expressing aromas between ashes and soft morro with traces of blueberries, ripe plums and a hint of cassis. In the mouth, this 95-point wine is tight, with chalky tannins, fruity flavour, a juicy centre of the mouth, light in structure and firm scaffolding that ends in a frank finish.
Pacheco Pereda, Estirpe Organic Fairtrade Cabernet Franc is an outstanding, platinum-winning 97-point wine that is dark black-red in colour, with warm, sweetly pippy scents bubbling from the glass. In the mouth, it’s a smooth flood of soft, vibrant raspberry and damson fruits which, despite the gentleness of both its acidity and its tannins, still contrive to give the drinker a sense of texture, amplitude and satisfaction. A sense of gravity, too, lifts those fruit flavours well clear of simplicity making it a wine to truly savour.
The next time you choose an Argentine Cabernet Franc, know that you’re not just drinking a wine; you’re experiencing the essence of a land, a people, and a grape that has found its voice in the vast tapestry of Argentine viticulture. Cheers to the hidden gem that has evolved into the rising star. Salud!