Austrian wine has rapidly gained in international stature in the past decade, mostly on the strength of Austria's dry white wines produced within a 20-mile radius of the small city of Krems on the Danube, less than 50 miles west of Vienna. The steep, terraced, riverside vineyards of the Wachau, immediately west of Krems, as well as geologically diverse sites on the edges of the city and to the north in the Kamptal, yield Austria's most brilliant and distinctive wines. Differences among Austrian wines within close proximity to one another are often dramatic. Nearly as dramatic, is the sight of such geological formations as crumbling volcanic slopes, sandstone buttes, and huge wavelike mounds of ancient glacial dust called loess.
Burgenland, a long, narrow swath of land running the length of Austria's border with Hungary, is home to the majority of Austria's red wines and botrytis-influenced sweet wines. Northern Burgenland is subdivided into two viticultural regions, the Neusiedlersee and Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, both named for the long, shallow lake that runs between them. To the south two red Austrian wine regions are appropriately known as Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland.
Cabernet Franc Facts
Less weight and more aromatic intensity than Cabernet Sauvignon
Stews and braised meats
The Loire Valley's most renowned red wines, Bourgueil and Chinon, are made from Cabernet Franc, as are the mostly lighter, friendlier wines of Anjou and the somewhat more serious wines of Saumur-Champigny. Until recently, the aroma and flavor profile of Cabernet Franc had been decidedly out of step with the tastes of modern wine drinkers: herbal and peppery, with notes of tobacco leaf, menthol, and licorice, and often rather dry-edged tannins. But thanks to a recent string of favorable growing seasons , and to considerable work in the vineyards to reduce vine yields and promote greater ripeness of the grapes, today's Loire Valley Cabernet Francs possess more flesh and sweetness of fruit than ever before. These Cabernet Francs are also wonderfully flexible at the table. (Incidentally, when it was discovered that a compound called resveratrol, which is found in the skins of many red grapes, offers cardiovascular and anticarcinogenic benefits, the Cabernet Franc variety was found to be particularly high in this substance.)
There are also ample plantings of Cabernet Franc in the New World where the grape is used as it is in Bordeaux, in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In the Napa Valley, there are excellent examples, particularly in the cooler mountain settings where Cabernet Sauvignon struggles to reach optimum ripeness. Some worthwhile single varietal bottlings are being produced by Pride Mountain, Chappellet, and La Jota, among other producers.
Surprisingly, Cabernet Franc is also showing some success elsewhere in North America, including in Virginia, near Monticello, where Thomas Jefferson first attempted to produce fine wine. Pay attention to current efforts, as these are proving more successful than Jefferson's early endeavors.