It has become clear to Villány winemakers in recent years that the wine region sees Cabernet Franc as its opportunity to break out into the international arena. The basis for this is Michael Broadbent’s visit to the region fifteen years ago when he wrote in the Decanter magazine that he felt the variety had found its true home in Villány. The story has moved on from here and since 2014 the highest quality Cabernet Francs have been able to request a special certification permitting the wine to bear the Villányi Franc name (100% Cabernet Franc, max. 35hl/ha yield, min. 1 year in oak and 1 year in bottle). The Loire came into the picture because, currently, when anyone in the world thinks of this grape variety at all, then a red wine from the Loire Valley will come to mind. At the event, we had the opportunity to taste 12 Villány and 12 Loire wines in this light, as well as to listen to several interesting presentations comparing the two terroirs. Tasting notes follow:
Wassmann Cabernet Franc 2013 I 86-88 points
On the nose, a little smoke, a lot of red and a little black berry fruit. Perhaps the strongest note is that of raspberry and a little pepper. The palate is medium-bodied with a firm structure and lovely acidity. Flavours of pepper, graphite and red berry fruit. Very young, I would wait longer to taste this. Not typically Villány, but super!
Vylyan Cabernet Franc 2012 I 86-88 points
Warm, leathery character with red and black berry fruit, with the latter dominating. Marzipan and some barrel spices in the background. On the palate, full-bodied, lovely acidity with massive, but not drying tannins. Plenty of spice, pepper, star anise and a slight bitterness. Still very young. Medium length with a spicy finish.
Weninger&Gere Cabernet Franc 2012 I 87-89 points
Aromas of sour cherry, chocolate, marzipan and cherry. On the palate, full-bodied and seemingly high alcohol. Robust wine with flavours of black berry fruit and massive, but not raw tannins. Long finish with spices and liquorice.
Riczu-Stier Cabernet Franc 2012 I 83-84 points
Restrained aromas of sour cherry, vanilla, blueberry with a touch of smoke. Full-bodied with soft acidity. Black berry fruit dominates on the palate. Mediterranean tone with some jammy notes.
Günzer Tamás Mátyás 2012 (it wasn’t stated at the tasting, but this wine is usually a blend, generally with a little Merlot) I 83-84 points
Aromas of pure wood, rum punch, vanilla, cloves, marzipan, nutmeg, black pepper and jamminess. On the palate, full-bodied with smooth acidity and slightly drying tannins. The flavours echo the aromas, with the acidity also causing a certain harshness on the finish.
Sauska Cabernet Franc 2011 I 90-92 points
New world tone on the nose with pepper, anise, ripe blackberry, leather, a little cigar smoke and cedar. Full-bodied, with fresh acidity, firm structure and ripe tannins. Flavours of black berries, pepper and a little talcum powder. Elegant, sterile, Super Tuscan feeling. Perfect choice!
Heumann Cabernet Franc 2011 I 90-92 points
Restrained aroma of spices and red berry fruit. Silky texture, mouth-filling structure and smooth tannins. Flavours of sour cherry, cherry, blackberry, clove and liquorice. Long finish, perfect structure!
Tiffán’s Cabernet Franc 2011 I 86-88 points
Aromas of gum, blackberry, mushroom and dry leaves. Full-bodied, velvety tannins and good balance. Flavours of purple flowers, violets, smoke and black berry fruit. It’s a shame that the finish is only medium.
Vinatus Cabernet Franc 2009 I 79-81 points
Aromas verging on overripeness, jammy notes, blueberry and blackberry. Dense, almost chewable structure, full-bodied, soft acidity and drying tannins. Flavours of pepper, blackberry, blueberry, chocolate and tobacco. Bitter notes on the finish.
Bock Cabernet Franc Selection 2009 I 88-90 points
Aromas of vanilla, boiled sweets, star anise a little dried leaves and animality. Full-bodied, silky structure, massive tannins and rounded acidity Flavours of blackberry and blueberry, a little jamminess, vanilla and chocolate. Long finish. Lovely.
Malatinszky Kúria Cabernet Franc 2007 I 87-89 points
Wonderful ripe aromas, but still fruity, mainly blackberry but a little jamminess (cherry jam) also appear, accompanied by some notes of mushroom. Full-bodied, firm structure, clean acidity and slightly grippy tannins. Spices dominate on the palate with some vegetal notes in the background. Still comes across as young, so worth waiting a little.
Csányi Teleki Cabernet Franc 2002 I 86-88 points
Aromas of forest fruits and a little animality, loads of blackberry and blackberry jam. Full-bodied with dense texture and serious tannins. Flavours of blackberry jam, chocolate and a little smoke. Nice wine, still with potential.
Couly-Dutheil, Les Chassoirs 2013 (Samur Champigny) I 81-83 points
Red berries, a little pepper and herbs on the nose. Medium-bodied with a firm structure and fresh acidity. Plenty of cherry and sour cherry on the palate, a real fruit bomb. Very drinkable, with a medium finish.
Domaine de la Butte, Le Haut de la Butte 2014 (Bourgueil) I 83-85 points
Concentrated sour cherry and Kékfrankos touch on the nose. On the palate, slightly more than medium-bodied, with vibrant acidity and attractive tannins. Flavours of sour cherry, cherry and a little bitterness which prevails on the finish. Very drinkable, seemingly more mature than the previous wine.
Couly-Dutheil, Les Frénésies 2013 (Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil) I 80-82 points
On the nose, animality, leather and an interesting mineral character. On the palate, slightly less than medium-bodied, lively acidity, fresh, sweet character, nevertheless seems a little dilute somehow. Plenty of red berry fruit and a slight prickle on the palate. A simple wine.
Couly-Dutheil, Le Coulée Antomnale 2012 (Chinon) I 85-87 points
Aromas of red berries, sour cherry, a little strawberry and cooked vegetables. On the palate, medium-bodied, good structure, rounded and fresh at the same time. The acidity is fresh, the balance flawless. Flavours of red berries, very drinkable, yet elegant wine with a medium finish.
Domaine de la Chevalerie, Diptyque 2012 (Bourgueil) I 83-85 points
Red and black berry fruits of the forest in the restrained nose. On the palate, balanced, firm structure, medium-bodied with good acidity and a slight prickle. Clean, drinkable wine with plenty of fruit flavours.
Yannick Amirault, La Mine 2014 (Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil) I 84-86 points
Strawberry, raspberry and also a little saltiness appears on the nose. On the palate, medium-bodied, well-balanced, good acidity. Fresh, fruity character. Very enjoyable but not too complex.
Couly-Dutheil, Baronie Madeleine 2011 (Chinon) I 85-87 points
At first, a little raw, poppy seed aroma, later strawberry and cherry also emerge. On the palate, medium-bodied, lively acidity, minerality, poppy seed and sour cherry strudel. Drinkable, exciting wine, with some bitterness on the finish. A wine to be shared.
Domaine de la Butte, Mi-Pente 2013 (Bourgueil) I 81-83 points
Animalistic start on the nose, a little smoked cheese also emerges next the fruit. On the palate, medium-bodied, firm structure, lively acidity, a lot of ripe and a little unripe red berry fruit. Overall, a youthful and drinkable wine, although the acidity at times seems a little harsh.
Yannick Amirault, Les Quartiers 2012 (Bourgueil) I 86-88 points
Aromas of salty caramel and brittle, salted peanuts, sour cherry and a whiff of electrostatic. On the palate, firm structure, mouth filling, with flavours of red berries and salty minerality. Some slightly green notes also creep into the finish. Exciting!
Couly-Dutheil, Clos de l’Olive 2011 (Chinon) I 80-82 points
Looks like juice (unfiltered), slightly stinky smell of chitin, wet wood and a little tar. On the palate, full-bodied, dense texture, with a serious amount of tannins and good acidity. Flavours of black berry fruity, mint and boiled sweets.
Charles Joguet, Clos du Chene Vert 2011 (Chinon) I 85-87 points
Aromas of salty olives with lots of sour cherry. On the palate, medium-bodied, mouth-filling texture and silky tannins. Flavours of lots of sour cherries and cherries. Drinkable, lovely wine.
Charles Joguet, Clos de la Dioterie 2011 (Chinon) I 90-92 points
Sweet cherry, sour cherry and a little plum on the nose. On the palate, salty, fruity, mineral and elegant. Perfect balance, firm yet rounded, with silky tannins and long finish. Super!
Finally some – initially not perhaps too happy – thoughts. It was striking during the tasting that while the twelve Hungarian Francs represented at least eight styles (of these, the only one which came near to the French style was the Wassman Pincészet 2013), the Loire Valley wines, in addition to their market image, were an embodiment of the same conception. As a matter of fact, this should be the minimum requirement as regards a wine region’s flagship wine if it wants to be recognised in the international market. Meanwhile, Decanter has just taken a snapshot of Cabernet Franc in its December issue, in cooperation with Ian D’Agata. It was as if it had completely forgotten the Broadbent discovery, which it also featured in 2000 - it speaks of Bordeaux, Tuscany, the Loire, New Zealand and Argentina as exciting production areas for Cabernet Franc, whereas Villány is not even mentioned. It seems that within the last ten years others have moved more quickly. On the other hand, the writers in the magazine draw attention to this grape variety because consumers are turning away from wines with high alcohol, laced with coffee and vanilla aromas, and brutally high tannins. It would therefore be a shame to take the variety in this direction when it is capable of doing the opposite. This doesn’t mean that Villány is giving up, or maybe not even starting (that’s no longer possible anyway), but it does show the need to speed up the decision-making process and to create an unambiguous Villány Franc style. The Francs coming from the Loire Valley offer consumers the security of 12.5-13% alcohol, a firm structure, fresh acidity and red berry fruit. We shouldn’t expect to copy this in an area such as Villány, which possesses completely different terroir, but a little consistency will be crucial to ensure that Michael Broadbent’s discovery of fifteen years ago does not fall into utter oblivion.