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Try Hungary for Cabernet Franc

by Peter McCombie MW

Villány Cabernet Franc has traditionally enjoyed elite rather than mainstream success. Too long seen as a bit player, today it seems to be having a moment. Aficionados have always appreciated the herbaceous expressions that Loire Valley offers and the grape flourishes on Bordeaux’s Right Bank, though largely ‘hidden’ in blends.

More recently the grape has been finding favour in Tuscany and in cooler parts of North America and New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay.

Cabernet Franc also performs well in Hungary’s Villány. Following a visit in 2000 Michael Broadbent MW wrote that ‘Cabernet Franc has found its natural home in Villány.” Villány has over 2150 hours of sunshine annually. The soil is primarily limestone covered with layers of clay and loess, rich in lime and calcium deposits.

Hungary accounts for just 2% of world Cabernet Franc plantings with 1,300 hectares of vines (of which abut a quarter are in Villány), but it is with Chile, the joint-fourth biggest producer of the grape after France and Italy. Reflecting the importance of Cabernet Franc in Villány, the PDO includes the category Villány Franc and there is an annual Franc & Franc Forum held in Villány in November devoted to the Cabernet Franc grape.

Reflecting the importance of Cabernet Franc in Villány, the PDO includes the category Villány Franc and there is an annual Franc & Franc Forum held in Villány in November devoted to the Cabernet Franc grape.

The quality and character of Cabernet Franc from Villany seems worth investigating for UK buyers. The challenge is recognition.

But Villany is about to change that. Some Villány growers, including Gere and Bock, are already working in the UK, building the foundations of Cabernet Franc – and Villány.