Huge. Multilayered. Complex. Graceful.
Cabernet Franc / Merlot
Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone, as in the Loire’s Chinon. In addition to being used in blends and produced as a Varietal in Canada and the United States, it is sometimes made into ice wine in those regions.
Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a Peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis and violets.
Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century, although it was planted in Loire long before that time. DNA analysis indicates that Cabernet Franc is one of two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère.
In general, Cabernet Franc is very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but buds and ripens at least a week earlier. This trait allows the vine to thrive in slightly cooler climates than Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Loire Valley. In Bordeaux, plantings of Cabernet Franc are treated as an “insurance policy” against inclement weather close to harvest that may damage plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its early budding does pose the viticultural hazard of coulure early in the growing season. The vine is vigorous and upright, with dark-green, 5-lobed leaves. The winged bunches are elongated and small-medium in size. The berries are quite small and blue-black in color, with fairly thin skins. The Cabernet Franc grapevine is more prone to mutation than Cabernet Sauvignon, less so than Pinot Noir.
Cabernet Franc can adapt to a wide variety of vineyard soil types but seems to thrive in Sandy, chalk soils, producing heavier, more full-bodied wines there. In the Loire Valley, terroir-based differences can be perceived between wines made from grapes grown in gravel terraces versus slopes. The grape is highly yield sensitive, with over-cropping producing wines with more green, vegetal notes. By Wikipedia.
Merlot is a dark blue–colored that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the color of the grape. Its softness and “fleshiness,” combined with its earlier ripening, make Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.
Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wines from the right bank, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world’s most planted grape varieties. As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety at 260,000 hectares (640,000 acres) globally. The area planted to Merlot has continued to increase, with 266,000 hectares (660,000 acres) in 2015.
Merlot grapes are identified by their loose bunches of large berries. The color has less of a blue/black hue than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and with a thinner skin and fewer tannins per unit volume. It normally ripens up to two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Also compared to Cabernet, Merlot grapes tend to have a higher sugar content and lower malic acid.
Merlot thrives in cold soil, particularly ferrous clay. The vine tends to bud early which gives it some risk to cold frost and its thinner skin increases its susceptibility to the viticultural hazard of Botrytis bunch rot. If bad weather occurs during flowering, the Merlot vine is prone to develop coulure. The vine can also be susceptible to downy mildew (though it has better resistance to powdery mildew than other Bordeaux varieties) and to infection by leafhopper insect varieties.
A characteristic of the Merlot grape is the propensity to quickly overripen once it hits its initial ripeness level, sometimes in a matter of a few days. There are two schools of thought on the right time to harvest Merlot. The wine makers of Chateau Petrus favor early picking to best maintain the wine’s acidity and finesse as well as its potential for aging. Others, such as Michel Rolland, favor late picking and the added fruit body that comes with a little bit of over-ripeness. By Wikipedia.
Pairing and Cellaring
Contact us for Pairing and Cellaring options. Did you know you can also find us on wine-searcher.com?