BACKGROUND OF CABERNET FRANC
Cabernet Franc is one of the most ancient grapes in the world. The parentage is unconfirmed, but genetically linked to Hondarrabi Beltza and Morenoa. Hondarrabi Beltza is the main grape of Basque Country in Northern Spain where produces the red Txakoline wine, and Morenoa is one of the lost grape of Southwest of France. In case you are doubting the noble origin, Cabernet Franc is the parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenére.
The First recorded evidence coming from the 17th century from Libornais, where the grape produces the most iconic example, mainly from the appellation of Pomerol and St Emilion. From here climbed its way up to the Loire Valley, where it has been planted by an abbot named Breton (Breton is a synonym of the grape nowadays in the region) in Abbey of Bourgeil. The stylistic difference between these two regions couldn’t be more different. The light herbaceous floral aromatics of Loire Cabernet is rarely found in the earthy and powerful, but elegant wines of Bordeaux.
It is an extremely versatile grape that adapts well to the terroir. Some of the new world countries gaining a reputation for the grape, such as Canada, Argentina, and New Zealand. Although none of these examples comparable to Villány. The region has a long history in terms of winemaking. French grapes been planted after the phylloxera and gaining good reputation. Is Villány going to produce another internationally recognized example of Cabernet Franc? The winemakers are certainly working on it.
“CABERNET FRANC HAS FOUND ITS NATURAL HOME IN VILLÁNY”
This sentence above was said by Michael Broadbent in 2000, which made people to pay more attention to this grape in and worked as a catalyst in Villány. The region is very safe choice for red winemaking as it is the sunniest and the southernmost Hungarian wine region. The average is 2100 sunshine hours that is the reason Cabernet is rarely have the pronounced green vegetal character. The grape gets perfectly ripe here, even in cooler years, especially in the southern vineyards of Kopár Jammertal or Ördögárok which produces some of the most expensive red wines of the country.
This grape mostly used as a blending partner. In Bordeaux they could not get it ripe in every vintage so if they would bottle it as a single varietal, it would be very inconsistent. The soil is limestone covered with sandy loess, which is the preferred soil for Cabernet Franc. On the Villány -Siklos subregion, which is slightly cooler and a top soil is thinner, wines show more freshness and balance. These are only scientific facts the proof of pudding is in eating. Is there something in these wines which cannot explain with science? Open a Villányi Franc and you will see.
STYLISTICH DEFINITION OF VILLANY
What would you expect from Villány? Restrained aromatics? Lightness? Charm? Certainly not. The Cab Franc from this region is a beast. High alcohol sometimes surpasses 15%, bold flavours and dense robust body. I don`t think this is something that should be hidden. You need the impact of the terroir in your final wine, but this could be balanced out with freshness in the hand of a good winemaker.
Another important factor is the oak influence, which has always been a big criticism in the region. “Villányi Franc” is an appellation established 2014 and mandate 12 month oak aging, but in practice, winemakers have been using between 18-24 months usually and very often higher percentage of new oak. This woody character together with high alcohol and ripeness can result a sensational sweetness in the wine which can shadow the austerity, what the grape gets in other classical regions of France. Makes it approachable in earlier years.
FUTURE OF THE GRAPE
For customers looking for a powerful red wine, the most obvious choice is Villány, so Cab Franc has an established place in the Hungarian market. To be known internationally is a challenge that this wine will face in the future. It is down to producers, sommeliers, and wine writers to show the unique characteristic and potential of Villanyi Franc. More and more people moving away from the rich oaky style of wines, however the lushness of Villany Cabernet is a perfect match for Trotter stew, Goulash, or a matured hard cheese after the meal.
When you are entering the global market, with the region which not known to many customers, you need to position your price accordingly. The competition will be high from rustic old world Cabernet to juicier new world counterparts and prices in both categories could be similar.
The first step to be a recognized brand in the international market, has been done. Producers have the same vision, and they make a uniform style. Since 2015 winemakers promote the grape on a Franc & Franc conference and tasting, Education and promotion comes hand in hand during this event, where they invite well know wine experts alongside with producers from other European countries.
So is the Villanyi Franc going to be a next big boom in the international wine world? Probably not, but it definitely express unique character and style which makes it a well known wine in Hungary.
Szerző: Czinki Tamás