If Riesling is the unofficial white grape of New York, then Cabernet Franc is our red. This bold black grape is one of the main grapes used in Bordeaux wine blends, typically being blended with Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. It came to popularity in the 1600s in the Loire Valley, where it actually helped to create the Cabernet Sauvignon after being crossed with the Sauvignon Blanc. From there it moved to Napa Valley and then began to travel across the United States until it finally landed here in our great state.
A very unique and famous characteristic of the Cabernet Franc is its spicy peppery aromas like chili and even a roasted bell pepper. Then there’s the robustly fruit-forward palate that blends so wonderfully with the pepper, making this wine perfect for basically everything. It’s a little lighter than a Cab Sauv in color and body so it’s palatable even in warm weather.
The Cab Franc has made its way to two major regions of New York Wine Country: the Finger Lakes, and Long Island. Also in a similar fashion to the Riesling (which also started in the Loire Valley), both the Finger Lakes and the East End have cooler climates due to the proximity to bodies of water which allow this grape to flourish in sweetness and acidity. There are some slight differences depending on region like the varying fruit flavors from Long Island and the smokier notes from the Finger Lakes.
It came to Long Island in the 1980s but has quickly risen to fame as the unofficial red grape of New York, and now the Hudson Valley is following suit, making great efforts to plant and harvest Cabernet Franc grapes as well. Like many other New York wines, the Cab Franc is considered an excellent value in the price to quality ratio. Our state produces wines that are exceptional but because they don’t have the Napa Valley or Willamette name on them, the prices remain in an affordable range.
Whether you’re trying it as a single varietal or in a blend, definitely look for the Cab Francs from our state. The wines in our regions are booming on the global scale and are having a great impact on the communities around them.
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