Is Loire Cabernet Franc finally getting the recognition it deserves, partly because of the rise in the grape’s fortunes elsewhere? If so, it’s about time. Where else can you find a wine as complex as this Chinon for under £9? It’s a classically grassy, refreshing red with no apparent oak and remarkable elegance and fruit purity. Drink it chilled, and drink lots of it.
Red Varietal: Cabernet Franc
Marlborough: The Fear of France?by Matt Walls
2011 Les Blancs Manteaux, Domaine de la Noblaie, Chinon, Loire Valley( £13.50, 13%, Haynes, Hanson & Clark )
The “white coats” in the name refers to the limestone soils that give this remarkable Cabernet Franc its refreshing minerality. Pure, almost transparent winemaking allows the terroir to speak. Grassy, elegant and refined with a long, polished finish and filigree tannins.
2013 Oller del Mas, Petit Bernat, Pla de Bages( £9, 14% )
A great value blend of Picapoll Negre, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made in an easy drinking style, with a touch of oak for added structure and complexity. Supple, attractive, raspberry and red cherry fruit with smooth tannins and balancing acidity. A really good quaffing red.
Spend less, drink betterby Matt Walls
2011 The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Domaine de La Noblaie Chinon, Loire( £8.95, 13.5%, The Co-operative )
Unoaked Loire Cabernet Franc is one of my favourite styles wine: light, fresh and grassy, with subtle lead pencil aromas and a bright, cool climate finish. That’s exactly what you get here, with acidity that works really well with cheese and red meats.
2010 Château Clément-Pichon, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux( £12.50, 14%, Fine + Rare )
A cru bourgeois that punches well above its weight, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot typifies the best feautures of the 2010 vintage: freshness and concentration of flavour. It’s ripe, yet well balanced with flavours of cassis and plum, a hint of damson and fine, structured tannins. Needs time.
2009 Château Sénéjac, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux( £13.99, 13.5%, The Co-operative )
On a deal for the next week, before it reverts to £16.99 after Christmas, this is a well-balanced, aromatic claret that is more focused and refined than many 2009s, but is still pretty forward and full of flavour: with subtle oak, riple plum and blueberry fruit and medium weight tannins. Very drinkable.
2010 La Chapelle de Potensac, Médoc( £19.99 downto £14.99, 13.5%, Marks & Spencer )
Made by the same team that produces the world famous St Julien second growth, Château Léoville-Las-Cases, this is a Médoc that really punches above its supposedly lightweight status. It’s a Merlot-dominated blend with 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot for company. Elegant and well balanced, it shows the poise that is typical of the best 2010s, with subtle oak, sweet raspberry and cassis fruit and well-defined tannins.
2013 Domaine du Bourg, Les Graviers, Frédéric Mabileau, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Loire Valley( £13.99 down to £10.50, 12.41%, Waitrose )
If you’re a fan of light, charming, grassy Cabernet Franc from the Loire, look no further than this unoaked stunner from Frédéric Mabileau. It’s appealingly scented, with aromas of cut grass, dill and pencil shavings, a supple, charming palate and bright, crunchy acidity. It tastes even better chilled.
2011 Jordi Oliver, Joc Negre, Emporda, Empordà( €7.50, 14.5 )
A Rhône meets Bordeaux blend, via Emporda of course, this is a four-way cuvée of Garnatxa, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Floral and nuanced, with subtle red fruits that nod towards Pinot Noir, despite the alcohol, backed up by minerality and balance. Drink it chilled.
2012 Can Sais, Migjorn, Empordà, Empordà( €8, 14% )
Using organic and biodynamic methods, Marta Arenas makes appealingly refreshing, understated wines. This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other local varieties is grassy and cassis-like with firmish tannins.