• Molly Jean

Molly's Meal Match: Cabernet Franc

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Cabernet Franc is the parent grape for some of the most famous wine varietals in the world: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère. This varietal does not receive the accolades it's due, likely because it's more of an acquired taste than its off-spring. It's lighter bodied and more acidic, with distinct spice and green vegetal notes. The flavors of green bell pepper and jalapeños can be off-putting to many wine drinkers. However, these wines are more than deserving of a sip or a heavy pour. They have a distinctive fresh quality, that's smooth on the palate with well balanced tannin.

Traditionally, this varietal has been used as a blending grape in the Bordeaux region of France, and in Bordeaux style wines around the world. Cab Franc is known to be an agricultural hedge, due to its ease in ripening. It's utilized as yield assurance, if Merlot and Cab Sauv struggle to ripen.


While this grape is robust and can thrive in various climates and in difficult conditions, canopy management is essential. If the grapes are too shaded, they will not achieve the necessary ripeness and will become heavily pyrazined. A chemical that gives off notes of green pepper in the wine, which can overwhelm the desirable spice and dark fruit flavors of Cab Franc.


Delicious single varietal expressions of these wines can be found throughout the world, from France, to Virginia, in both Old World and New World styles. The varietal's earthy, dark fruit and spicy qualities are a great match with wild game, grilled veggies, bbq sauce and tomato based dishes.

Oenophile Fact: Cab Franc hails from Basque, Spain.

 

Regions of Note

Loire Valley (France): Cab Franc is the leading red grape of the Loire Valley. Notable appellations within Loire Valley are Chinon, Bourgueil, Anjou, and Saumur. Here you will find wines with notes of bell pepper, distinct herbal flavors, red chili flakes, raspberry sauce and wet gravel. Since this is a cooler climate region, the wines are lighter in color and body, as well as high in acidity. They famously pair with steak frites!


Tuscan Coast (Italy): These warmer climate wines are rich and juicy with notes of leather, strawberry, licorice and coffee. You will find Cab Franc classified as IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée), since it is not a native grape. They will often be labeled by variety or by a made up name.


Virginia (United States): Virginia is an unpredictable environment, the grape has to combat heavy humidity, excessive rain, rot/disease and pests. Fortunately, Cab Franc does well in this environment and produces earthy, terroir driven wines. They are high in acidity with mouth drying tannin and a smoky-spicy quality.


Flavors + Aromas

Primary (grape and alcoholic fermentation):

Floral: violet

Red Fruit: raspberry, strawberry, red plum, red currant,

Black Fruit: black currant, blackberry brambles, black cherry

Herbaceous: green bell pepper, jalapeño, red chili pepper

Herbal: dried herbs, tarragon

Spice: licorice, red pepper flake, smoked paprika, black pepper,

Fruit Ripeness: cooked fruit, strawberry jam, raspberry sauce

Other: wet stone, crushed gravel, clay pots,


Secondary (post-fermentation winemaking):

Oak: coffee, cola, vanilla, cocoa, cedar


Tertiary (maturation/aging):

Leather, dried leaves, tobacco, earth, tea leaves, pencil shavings, mushroom


*Cellar for 5 - 10 Years

 

Chorizo Empanadas & Chimichurri

Mascota Vineyards La Mascota Cabernet Franc (AR)


These warm and savory empanadas dipped in chimichurri, are the perfect companion for this Argentinean Cabernet Franc. The wine is juicy with notes of blackberry and tobacco. It has balanced tannin and acidity, with herbal qualities that enhance the flavors of the chimichurri. This pairing will warm your belly and have you drooling over the bold flavors.


Directions

1. Begin with making the Chimichurri. In a small bowl combine: avocado oil, red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, juice of 1 lemon, shallot, parsley, oregano. Set aside.


2. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. 3. In a large sauce pan, brown the ground chorizo. Once browned, add in the tomato paste, garlic, onion, green bell pepper, parsley, paprika, cumin chili flakes, and cilantro. Cook over medium heat for 2 mins. Add the tomato purée and cook for a further 7-10 mins until everything is cooked through. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.


4. Roll out the pie crust (you can also make your own dough...but that seems like a lot of work), with a glass 4-5 inches in diameter cut out disks. The two sheet rolls should make about 15 disks.


5. Place a small spoon full of the chorizo mixture into the center of each disk. Fold the disk in half so the edges meet. Pinch the corners and use a fork to crimp the edges.


6. Arrange the empanadas on a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with a beaten egg and bake for 20 mins. When the empanadas are ready, remove from the oven and let them cool.


7. Serve warm, alongside Chimichurri.

Chimichurri

Empanadas

Dry Goods: red pepper flakes (to taste) 1/4 cup of avocado oil 3 tbsp red wine vinegar salt & pepper (to taste)

​Dry Goods:

2 tbsp of tomato paste

2 tsp paprikia

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tsp dried parsley

Produce: 1 tbsp of oregano 2 handfuls of parsley (chopped) 1 large shallot (minced) 1 lemon juiced

​Refrigerated Goods:

1 egg

1 lb ground chorizo

1 package of pie crusts

Produce:

1 yellow onion (diced)

1 green pepper (diced)

4 garlic cloves (minced)

1 handful of cilantro (chopped)


 

Crispy Shrimp & Romesco

Pergolaia Caiarossa, 2015 (IT)


I'm breaking all of the rules: shrimp with red wine...and Romesco sauce. Romesco is a delicious pairing with Cabernet Franc; the high acid of the roasted tomatoes aligns flawlessly with the high acid in the wine. This Tuscan variety has aromas of cherries, toffee and lavender, with the classic Cab Franc green bell pepper note on the palate. The herbal seasonings an crispiness of the shrimp, is a mouthwatering display of how the earthy qualities of Cab Franc can pair well with seafood.



Directions - Romesco Sauce

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. On a foil lined baking sheet place the tomatoes, whole red peppers, and slivers of garlic (skins removed). Drizzle some avocado oil over the veggies. Cook for 20-25 minutes - I pull them when the skins begin to brown. 2. Place a metal bowl over the red peppers and leave for 5 minutes. This will allow them to continue to soften. Then slice the peppers to remove the seeds and stem.


3. Meanwhile, in a medium pan, drizzle a tbsp of oil and warm it. Add in 1/2 cup of the blanched slivered almonds and torn bread pieces (1/2 inch in size). Cook until browned, stirring occasionally - about 3 minutes. I forgot mine on the stove and burned them a bit- it was still good. 4. Add 3 tbsp of oil, 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, bread pieces, blanched almonds, add the tomatoes, red peppers, paprika, cayenne, handful of parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, and salt & pepper to taste to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth-ish, it should be saucy and thick.


Directions - Shrimp

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.


2. Peel shrimp, keep the tails in tact.


3. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup of flour and salt & pepper. In another bowl whisk together eggs. In a third bowl mix together panko, parsley, basil and garlic salt.


4. Dredge shrimp in the four mixture, to egg batter (allow excess to drip off), to panko mixture.


5. Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place the breaded shrimp in one layer on the pan. 6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.


7. Dip your crispy shrimp into the Romesco, or serve over a bed of cooked zucchini or noodles topped with the Romesco.

Crispy Shrimp

Romesco

​Dry Goods:

3/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp garlic salt

2 cups panko crumbs

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried basil

salt & pepper (to taste)

non-stick cooking spray

Dry Goods:

1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds

4 length of French bread

1/2 tbsp of paprika

cayenne to taste (can by left out)

salt & pepper (to taste)

4 tbsp of avocado oil

2 tbsp of red wine vinegar

​Refrigerated Goods:

1 lb shrimp (peeled)

2 large eggs

Refrigerated Goods:

1 tbsp of sun dried tomatoes

​Produce:

Produce:

10-12 Campari tomatoes

2 red peppers

fresh flat leaf parsley

3-4 cloves of garlic


 

Romesco & Mozzarella Lamb Burgers

Horton Vineyards Cabernet Franc, 2016 (VA)


Get ready for a mouthwatering pairing for the books. This lamb burger is topped with fresh mozzarella and delicious Romesco sauce. The gamey flavors and acidic sauce on the burger, make a flavorful companion to the high acid in the wine. The burger was delicious with this robust Virginian wine. The wine's dark berry and chocolate covered cherry aromas, and flavors of mushroom, licorice and anise were a beautiful indication of place.



Directions - Romesco Sauce

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. On a foil lined baking sheet place the tomatoes, whole red peppers, and slivers of garlic (skins removed). Drizzle some avocado oil over the veggies. Cook for 20-25 minutes - I pull them when the skins begin to brown. 2. Place a metal bowl over the red peppers and leave for 5 minutes. This will allow them to continue to soften. Then slice the peppers to remove the seeds and stem.


2. Meanwhile, in a medium pan, drizzle a tbsp of oil and warm it. Add in 1/2 cup of the blanched slivered almonds and torn bread pieces (1/2 inch in size). Cook until browned, stirring occasionally - about 3 minutes. I forgot mine on the stove and burned them - it was still good. 3. Add 3 tbsp of oil, 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, bread pieces, blanched almonds, add the tomatoes, red peppers, paprika, cayenne, handful of parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, and salt & pepper to taste to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth-ish, it should be saucy and thick.


Directions - Lamb Burgers

1. Get your grill or Traeger up to a high heat. Pack the beef into 1/4 lb patties. Dash each side with garlic powder, pepper, and Worchester sauce. I do not measure this out, I just go for it.


2. When the grill is to temp, slap those meat patties on the grill.


7. Check your patties, use your intuition for flipping. They should cook a total of 7-10 minutes depending on your grill and desired doneness level. A few minutes before they are done, place a mozzarella slice on the patty to melt.


8. Build the remainder of your burger.


bun > mayo > fresh basil > lamb patty > mozzarella cheese > romesco sauce > mayo > bun

Lamb Burger

Romesco

Dry Goods:

brioche buns

garlic salt

pepper to taste

Dry Goods:

1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds

4 length of French bread

1/2 tbsp of paprika

cayenne to taste (can by left out)

salt & pepper (to taste)

4 tbsp of avocado oil

2 tbsp of red wine vinegar


Refrigerated Goods:

fresh sliced mozzarella

2 lb ground lamb

mayo

worcestershire sauce

Refrigerated Goods:

1 tbsp of sun dried tomatoes

Produce:

fresh basil

Produce:

10-12 Campari tomatoes

2 red peppers

fresh flat leaf parsley

3-4 cloves of garlic


 

Creamy Ratatouille

Le Pré Vaujour Chinon, 2018 (FR)


Ratatouille is a wonderful pairing with Cabernet Franc and other medium red wine varietals. The vegetal characteristics of the wine align to perfection with the roasted veggies and tomato juices of this nosh. The added creamy elements of the veggies, heighten the wine's flavors of pepper and thyme, while being juxtaposed by the perfumed aromas of violet and sugar plums. This French pairing is fit to be served alongside steak, or served as a main dish.



Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Slice the eggplant, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes 1/8 of an inch thick. Set aside - this part takes the longest.


3. Prepare the creamy sauce first. In a large sauce pan, warm 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat. Sauté the chopped onions, red bell pepper and minced garlic for 3-5 minutes. Until the onion is translucent.


4. Add in the thyme, dill, basil, paprika, crushed tomatoes and salt & pepper to taste. Stir the mixture. Add in the milk and cream cheese, stirring to ensure it mixes and does not burn.


5. Remove from heat and add 3/4 of the mixture to a large circular or oval dish. Arrange the sliced vegetables (alternating all 4), in a ring around the edge - starting from the outside work your way in.


6. Spoon the remaining sauce on top of the veggies, massage it into the vegetable layers.


7. Brush the top with oil and sprinkle with thyme.


8. Cook covered for 50 minutes. Uncover and cook for a remaining 10 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes - to avoid burning the shit out of your mouth.

Ratatouille

​Ingredients

​Dry Goods:

1 15 oz can of crushed tomato

2 tsp Paprika, smoked

salt & pepper (to taste)


Refrigerated Goods:

1/4 cup whole milk

4 oz cream cheese

​Produce:

2 Eggplants (small/med)

2 yellow squash

2 zucchini

4 large tomatoes

8-10 fresh basil leaves

1 tbsp fresh thyme

1/2 tbsp of rosemary

1 tsp fresh dill (chopped)

4 Garlic cloves

1 red bell pepper (diced)

1 sweet onion (diced)


 

I hope you enjoyed learning about Cabernet Franc and checking out these pairing suggestions. If you have feedback, comments, or questions please feel free to comment below, post to The Wine Tails Facebook Page, or message me on Instagram.


Thank you Wine Simple, Wine for Normal People, The Wine Bible, and Wine Folly for providing me with amazing research materials. Follow along with The Wine Tails Pinterest page to see what gets me motivated and gives me inspiration for these pairings.


Cheers and happy sipping

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