Cabernet franc should taste like cabernet franc. It may seem obvious, but taste enough of it from up and down the East Coast, and it quickly becomes obvious that not all that many winemakers are willing to let cab franc speak for itself.
Unless it’s allowed to get very ripe – overripe, really – on the vine, cabernet franc nearly always has a “green” edge. Sometimes that greenness expresses itself as sweet summer herbs like basil, oregano or thyme. Other times, it’s more overtly vegetal, think asparagus or bell pepper. I don’t think anyone wants a wine that tastes just of these things, but as an accent to ripe fruit flavors, good acidity, medium-intense tannins and maybe a bit of an earthy note and then you really have something.
At least I think so. A lot of winemakers still fear that green character, so they let the grapes get ripe enough in the vineyard to knock the chemistry out of whack or they beat those flavors out of the wine through the use of new oak barrels – replacing herbs with wood. Those wines can still be good, but they aren’t what I want in cabernet franc.
This week’s Wine of the Week, Paumanok Vineyards 2014 Cabrenet Franc ($28) is what I want in cabernet franc. It tastes like cabernet franc.
Intense aromas of blackberry and currant are accented – and not at all dominated – herbal notes. They bring a savory, food-friendliness to fruit flavors that have a fresh, just-picked quality.
Medium bodied and intensely berried — which again more than balances that savory herbal character – the palate speaks for itself. You won’t find toasty or oaky flavors. Not even a lick of vanilla. The finish is long with a plum skin note, fresh acid and a nice bit of drying tannin.
This was one of the stars of a recent tasting I did with grilled burgers. You can read that story in the summer Wine Press.