Back to my favorite varietal. Cabernet Franc. This one, from a cool climate in Paso Robles. Yes, that does exist.
Hi, everyone. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’m gonna hold this up so you can get a look. It says Franc across the front. This is another Field Recordings wine, so you get two for the price of one this month. Well, maybe not for the price of one, but two wines from the same winemaker.
So a couple things. Let’s talk about Cabernet Franc and some of the issues in that regard, and let’s talk about vineyard location for Franc. So, I’ll go into this a little bit in the newsletter, but Franc is … I don’t love male and female connotations for wine because I don’t think that’s very fair, nor do I think it’s very fair to do people’s palates by male and female because I don’t think it’s consistent when you talk to people. So, Franc is, if you look at the genes of wine, is the mother of cabernet sauvignon. So, it’s more acidic and it’s lighter in style. And so when you look at plantings of cabernet Franc, especially here in California, you’ll look at it and you’ll say, “Look, there’s actually a fairly, 3,000 acres or so, you should be able to find plenty of 100% cabernet Franc if you want.” But you can’t. And the reason is because you have so many wineries that are making cabernet sauvignon and then they need blending agents. So, if they want something to be a little bit less tannic, but without changing the character of the wine, you’ll see something that’s 90% cabernet sauvignon and 4% cabernet Franc. And so that’s in really what’s happening with most of the Franc that’s planted. It’s used as a blending grape and little else.
What has happened is California is pretty well planted out into the first sites that you would choose. So if you looked on a map and you look at soil composition, rainfall, all the stuff that would go into making, growing wine grapes easy, you would find pretty quickly that most of these areas are already taken. And so what’s happened over the last 10 or 12 years? People have started moving more to marginal areas. And what’s a marginal area? So if you think about Paso Robles, it’s kind of in one of the classic locations. So there’s a huge underground river, so you have plenty of water at all times, so really after a few years, you won’t have to irrigate your vines. It’s a warm climate during the summer, but you get a cooling influence from … so the ocean may be 20 miles or so west, but there’s a hole in the mountains that cut off the central coast from the Pacific, and that cold breeze comes up through that kind of inlet and cools everything down quite a bit. So you get probably the biggest diurnal, which is the difference between day and night temperatures, swing of anywhere in California, and really one of the biggest swings of any wine region anywhere in the world. So it’s literally one of the first places that you would choose to plant grapes.
A lot of it’s already planted out, and they have some water issues for new vineyards, and they’re trying to control development, all the stuff that happens in every wine region everywhere. And so when you get … 10 years or 20 years ago people went east where it was warmer, because they thought, “Hey, if we’re growing varietals in the center of town and we go east where it’s warmer, then maybe we can try Spanish varietals, or we can try Portuguese, or we’ll just make a different style of wine.” What’s happened more recently is people have gone west. As you drive down the coast, or drive to the coast from Paso, you kind of go up and down this little hillside, and then you’re kind of set losing elevation pretty quickly. It gets foggy almost every time you drive it at some point.
And those are the spots where people have started planting vineyards. And you’re seeing grenache getting planted down there. You’re seeing syrah. And then people are starting to experiment with true cold climate varieties, and that’s something that Franc really is. It’s ancestral home is one of the coldest climate growing regions in all of France. And so the Paso folks are trying this. And there’s not a lot of it. And even this Franc is sourced from multiple different vineyard sites around. So there’s not enough of it even in one huge spot for everybody to go to.
But I think this is part of the wave of the future of Paso, and this is how Paso continues it growth in wine, and this is how Paso joins kind of Napa and Sonoma and some other regions in Washington and Oregon as kind of one of the true wine elites. I think they’re already there from quality. I think they’re already there from perspective of the most in tune wine drinkers and the heaviest … well, heaviest has a negative connotation, but people who drink the most wine take it seriously. Paso’s already thought of in that wine elite. But if you ask an average consumer buying a $15 to $20 bottle of wine name five wine growing regions in California, I don’t think they would get to Paso. I don’t know if they could even name five. But Paso should be on people’s lists, and it should be on people’s lists because not only is the quality really good, but the quality to price ratio is excellent, and this is a great example of that. And the Field Recording folks should be proud of this one.
So, once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I hope you’ve enjoyed a short intro to Franc. It’s a very acidic cabernet. And when you open it, you’re going to notice something really quickly. Hey, this feels a lot like cabernet sauvignon, but it’s more acidic. It’s lighter in body, but it reminds you a lot of that. And frankly that’s why it was such a great blending grape for so long. And that’s why so many people planted a couple rows of it for blending. Now, we have to see if maybe people will plant more than a couple rows and let wine makers make a single varietal wine from it. So, I hope everybody’s having a good one, and, as always, thank you for visiting.