Winter has arrived, and with it the kind of cold weather that makes one want to spend an evening sitting in front of a warm fire, nibbling on a warm wedge of brie and sipping a nice glass of red wine. One of my favorite types of wine for such an evening is Cabernet Franc.
Though less well known than its famous progeny, Cabernet Sauvignon, and today more often used as a blending grape than as a varietal, Cabernet Franc is a grape capable of producing some truly splendid wines. Cabernet Franc tends to create medium-to-full-bodied wines with cherry and berry flavors, but what makes Cabernet Franc wines special are the green, floral, herbaceous aromas the grape tends to produce. Cabernet Franc is also a very food-friendly wine, and goes well with roasted meats, particularly lamb and poultry.
In recent years, Israel has started to produce a growing number of varietal Cabernet Francs, and it seemed like a good time to taste the current crop. We tasted five wines, all of which were very good, and any of which would be a delightful choice for a cold winter’s eve.
Psagot, Judean Hills, Cabernet Franc, 2011: Bright-garnet in color, with a medium-to-full body, this Cabernet Franc is showing quite well. The nose is redolent of spicy oak and pencil shavings, with elements of cherries and red currants. Look for flavors of cherries, blackberries, red currants, espresso, and oak, with a lively note of white pepper on the finish. Drink within the next four years. Score B+/A- ($29.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wine, 174 West Englewood Ave., Teaneck, 201-862-1700.)
Carmel, Galilee, Appellation, Cabernet Franc, 2009: This garnet-colored, almost-full-bodied wine has a bouquet of violets and cassis, with a note of oak, and just a whiff of blueberries. Look for flavors of cherries, mixed berries and mocha, with a jammy note on the finish. Well structured, with a good mineral content and generous powdery tannins, this wine should be able to cellar for another two to three years. Score B+ ($18.97. Available at Wine Chateau, 85 Central Ave., Metuchen, 800-946-3190.)
Tulip, Judean Hills, Mostly Cabernet Franc, 2011: A blend of 85% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot, this garnet-colored wine has a nose of raspberries, cassis, French roast coffee, and oak, with floral and herbaceous notes in the background. Cherries, raspberries, and oak dominate the flavor, but look for notes of herbes de Provence mid-palate, and black pepper on the finish. Drink now until 2019. Score B+ ($36.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wine, 174 West Englewood Ave., Teaneck, 201-862-1700.)
Shiloh, Judean Hills, Shor, Cabernet Franc, 2012: Aged for 17 months in French oak, this bright-garnet-colored, medium-to-full-bodied wine has an herbaceous bouquet, with elements of wild flowers, cherries, plums, chocolate, oak, and cedar. Look for flavors of cherries, strawberries, and plums on the front of the palate, mocha mid-palate, herbs and grains of paradise on the finish, with a nice layer of oak running throughout. This is perhaps the best wine I’ve tasted in the Shor series to date. Drink now until the end of the decade. Score B+ (This wine has not yet been released in the US, but should be available presently.)
1848 Winery, Judean Hills, Fifth Generation, Cabernet Franc, 2010: Dark-garnet colored, full bodied, and barrel aged for 14 months, this fruit-forward wine has flavors and aromas of cherries, raspberries, violets, oak, and chocolate, with hints of tarragon, rhubarb, and toffee. Drink now until 2017. Score B/B+ ($27.97. Available at Wine Chateau, 85 Central Ave., Metuchen, 800-946-3190.)
Please Note: Wines are scored on an “A”–“F” scale where “A” is excellent, “B” is good, “C” is flawed, “D” is very flawed, and “F” is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.
By Gamliel Kronemer