About this WINE
Despite their own complacency, occasional arrogance and impressive challenges from all-comers, France is still far and away the finest wine-producing nation in the world and its famous regions – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Loire, Rhône, Alsace and increasingly Languedoc Roussillon – read like a who’s who of all you could want from a wine. Full-bodied, light-bodied, still or fizzy, dry or sweet, simple or intellectual, weird and wonderful, for drinking now or for laying down, France’s infinitesimal variety of wines is one of its great attributes. And that’s without even mentioning Cognac and Armagnac.
France’s grape varieties are grown, and its wines emulated, throughout the world. It also brandishes with relish its trump card, the untranslatable terroir that shapes a wine’s character beyond the range of human knowledge and intervention. It is this terroir - a combination of soil and microclimate - that makes Vosne-Romanée taste different to Nuits-St Georges, Ch. Langoa Barton different to Ch. Léoville Barton.
France is a nation with over 2,000 years of winemaking, where the finest grapes and parcels of land have been selected through centuries of trial and error rather than market research. Its subtleties are never-ending and endlessly fascinating. Vintage variation is as great here as anywhere – rain, hail, frost and, occasionally, burning heat can ruin a vintage. Yet all this creates interest, giving the wines personality, and generating great excitement when everything does come together.
However, this is not to say that French wine is perfect. Its overall quality remains inconsistent and its intricate system of classification and Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) based on geography as opposed to quality is clearly flawed, sometimes serving as a hindrance to experimentation and improvement.
Nevertheless, the future is bright for France: quality is better than ever before – driven by a young, well-travelled and ambitious generation of winemakers – while each year reveals new and exciting wines from this grand old dame.
Cabernet Franc is widely planted in Bordeaux and is the most important black grape grown in the Loire. In the Médoc it may constitute up to 15% of a typical vineyard - it is always blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and is used to add bouquet and complexity to the wines. It is more widely used in St.Emilion where it adapts well to the cooler and moister clay soils - Cheval Blanc is the most famous Cabernet Franc wine in the world, with the final blend consisting of up to 65% of the grape.
Cabernet Franc thrives in the Loire where the cooler growing conditions serve to accentuate the grape's herbaceous, grassy, lead pencil aromas. The best wines come from the tuffeaux limestone slopes of Chinon and Bourgeil where growers such as Jacky Blot produce intense well-structured wines that possess excellent cellaring potential.