Cabernet Franc Rosé Is Definitely a Thing

Just look at the roster of the hotshot producers who are making it.

Are we ready to actually get serious about rosé? I know each year almost every winemaker says that they’re serious about rosé, meaning they’re taking the exact same care with their pink wines as they do their red and or white, but then a large portion of them go ahead and make their wine with some Frankenstein’ed mix of Merlot, Syrah, Malbec and whatever else happens to be lying around. There’s nothing wrong with that screwball mix per se, and I’ll confess to trying many that I enjoyed reasonably well, but they are not serious wines in the same way that while both both Justin Timberlake and Daniel Day Lewis are both actors (and  JT was really good in The Social Network) but they’re fundamentally doing different things.

For me what is required to be considered serious is a commitment that’s pretty easy: using the same grapes or mix of grapes with consistency in an effort to achieve a certain flavour profile and hopefully express some sense of place. It’s what every proper winemaker does with their reds and their whites already, and it’s what I expect with their rosés as well. And it doesn’t have to be any of the classical formations either—Provencal rosé is often held to the worldwide standard, but we grow very little Grenache, very little Mourvedre and as far as I am aware, no Cinsault – three grape varieties that are key to Provencal rosé. In B.C. we have exceptional rosés made with 100% Pinot Noir, with Gamay…Stag’s Hollow even make one with Dolcetto, like the Northern Italians do. But of all the “focussed” rosés it seems those made with Cabernet Franc seem to be standing out for their personality.

Now making rosé with Cab Franc ain’t exactly common, but it’s been done with great results in France’s Loire valley for ages and those are some of my fave French rosés. They’re typically a little more savoury than their rosé cousins to the south, with a bit more pepper/spice too. In B.C. that translates to… well they’re a bit all over the place as you see below, but they’re all done with a level of thought and focus that put them firmly in the “serious” camp.


Tantalus Cabernet Franc Rosé $21.74

Tantalus’ “regular” rosé is made with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and is itself a serious wine, but this is the first time we  see them experimenting with some organic Cab Franc grapes they source down in Osoyoos with impressive results. (It’s part of their Further Afield series and there’ll be a Cab Franc red coming as well). It’s a bit more savoury than their Pinot version, but not aggressively so, and it has a bit more body to boot. A flipping steal at this price.

Hester Creek Cabernet Franc Rosé $20

The hue here is so deep that it’s almost a light red and the body is likewise definitely on the more robust side. It’s also what we’d call off-dry, meaning there’s a bit of noticeable sweetness on the palate of very ripe strawberries, so if you’re not a fan of the waifish very pale rosés that are in vogue, this is a nice, welcoming antidote. And props for Hester Creek for not only being an early adopter of Cabernet Franc for rosé, but keeping their style consistent and the price crazy affordable.

Liquidity Rosé of Cabernet Franc $35

This is what I mean by being serious. Earlier this year Liquidity made a rosé from 100% Pinot Noir. It sold out. But instead of sourcing pinot grapes from wherever, or worse making rosé out of some melange of grapes kicking around, or still worse adding those odd bins to Pinot (don’t blanch, it happens), they did what I expect of a serious operation. They thought “What’s another grape that we could make rosé with that would be something we’d be proud of.” The result is what’s probably closest to a true Loire rosé: excellent acidity, a noticeable subtext of herbs and pepper, a light low-alcohol mouthfeel. Unfortunately the price, $35, is quite serious too, but you can’t have everything.

Lock and Worth Cabernet Franc Rosé $23

Along with Hester, L&W are the OGs of Cab Franc rosé. They make two versions—a white label and a silver label—and both are great (the white is the cheaper of the two). This is is the closest to the rosé a natural wine producer from the Loire would make: very juicy, much more pomegranate and cranberry than ripe strawberry, low alcohol. They’ve been doing this wine so well for so long that it really has become a benchmark of the region. And to prove I’m not a snob, they also make a wonderful rosé out of merlot and while it’s an atypical grape for pink wine, they bring their same focus and care to make something special out of it than they do with their other wines, that’s all I’m asking for. And a cool minimalist label.

Orofino Pozza Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rosé $43 (for 1.5L)

Ok, there’s a few things to gush about here. Firstly Orofino deserves props for being an early adopter, second I love that they list the Vineyard on the label—because they’re serious about this wine—and thirdly, how frickin’ awesome is it that this wine comes in a MagBag – two bottles worth in a handy, environmentally conscious, great for preserving wine silver bag. Because I’m definitely drinking two bottles of this beauty—light, nice acid, a bit more rhubarb and less strawberry—if given the chance.  And it comes in 750ml bottles too. The pride of the Similkameen.