Franc from New York vs The Rest

It’s always interesting when a wine region or country pits its wines against wines of a similar style from elsewhere. Of course, it should never be taken too seriously either; the famous ‘Judgement of Paris’ and multiple similar events since have thrown up all sorts of questions about whether apples really were being compared with apples, and what is truly representative of each region featured.

The most recent of such tastings that I have attended was via Zoom, with samples of three New York State Cabernet Franc wines being compared against three from elsewhere, Old World and New.

Oz Clarke was one of the hosts. He praised Cabernet Franc as a variety, specifically because of its ability to ripen and develop full flavours even at low alcohols. He also considers it a prime contender as a global-warming resistant hero, able to thrive in a large variety of cool to hot conditions and, more importantly, make excellent wines in each.

It’s also an important grape historically, being a parent of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and though it’s fame waned somewhat everywhere outside of the Loire Valley, it is now seeing a considerable resurgence, it’s hardiness being one secret of why a very cold region like upstate New York. It’s a stronghold of Cabernet Franc, and the third most planted variety in the State.

So, no ‘conclusions’ as such from such a small sample, except to say that the New York wines certainly held their own. They showed lovely fruit and acid balance at low alcohols, and a perhaps surprising capacity to age and develop as the 2014 example proved.

The New York Wines

(2022) From the Finger Lakes, again creamy and ripe, with red fruits as much as black, a light Cru Beaujolais-like character perhaps. Fleet-footed and crisp on the palate, those Beaujolais images are still in my mind, surely some carbonic maceration here. Lovely fruit, dry, touches of florals, but balance of acidity and medium-tannins are lovely.
(2022) From Long Island, this has a creamy but fresh raspberry character, there's a little floral, violet edge too that adds fragrance and firmness. On the palate this has a substantial, juicy black fruit character. With good acidity giving a bite and freshness, tight tannins and a polish of oak, it stays quite lean and sinewy in style, but delicious. Not in the UK.
(2022) Yes, a 2014 vintage, from a winery that buys its fruit from various sub-regions of the Finger Lakes. De-stemmed and fermented with natural yeasts and in to 500-litre neutral oak barrels for 36 months. It's a remarkable wine, with lovely bloody and forest floor development, but a perfume of red fruits and flowers comes through. In the mouth a stripe of liquorice to the chalky tannins and acids gives this real purpose, but the fruit and a gentle mocha coffee note adds balancing fruit and richness. Not in the UK at time of review.

World Cabernet Franc

(2022) A Chinon from the Loire Valley and a very hot year. Couly Dutheil is an estate that has moved from new barrels, to old, to now no oak: this cuvee is all made in steel. Plenty of floral and even exotic notes here, substantial meatiness too, a big wine (15.5% alcohol) but it does carry that rather well, as aicidty is retained and the grippy tannins give extra bite and clarity. Stockist is for a previous vintage at time of review.
(2022) From the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina, there's a meatiness here, but also a sense of plushness with quite thick and rich red and black fruit, a touch of dark cocoa too. On the palate a big wine, substantial depth of black fruit, but a nice gravelly edge that gives it freshness. There's a sour cherry bite to the acidity too, again helping cut through the meaty density of the wine.
(2022) From relatively cool sites in Stellenbosch, South Africa, there's a delightful aroma that blends chocolate and floral and herb notes, with a deep red berry fruitiness. The palate has a fine oak background, coffeeish again and creamy, but the powerful fruit has intensity, without too much extraction, melting into very fresh fruit skin acidity and silky, fine tannins. A plush and forward wine, but my word it drinks beautifully.

One response to “Franc from New York vs The Rest

  1. Good review Tom; I wanted to like the 2014 more than I actually did. The nose was lovely, but I found the sweet fruit too short, even if the underpinnings were good.

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