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Cabernet Franc is a nice red choice for the warm months ahead. 

Cab Fever

Prior to the introduction of Cabernet Sauvignon in the 18th century, the Cabernet Franc grape was the most important grape in Bordeaux. It is still an important Bordeaux grape used mostly for blending, particularly in Pomerol and St. Emilion. Cabernet Franc is also widely planted in the Touraine, which is near the city of Tours in France's Loire Valley. In fact, the best red wines in the Loire come from the Touraine, and two of its best-known — Chinon and Bourgueil — are made primarily with Cabernet Franc grapes.

American and Italian wineries are also producing wines made with the Cabernet Franc grape. Look for single-variety Cabernet Franc from Washington, California and Virginia. As a blending grape, Cabernet Franc is prized for its fresh acidity and its ripe, red fruit aromas and flavors. As a single-variety wine, Cabernet Franc is usually light- to medium-bodied with pleasant acidity and aromas of raspberries and strawberries. And because it is relatively light in body and has refreshing acidity, it can be sipped slightly cool (not cold), making it a nice choice for the warmer months ahead.

1998 Barboursville Cabernet Franc, $19.99. This recently released red from Barboursville is as good as — maybe even better than — their 1997 Cab Franc (which won the Virginia Wine Competition Governor's Cup in 1999). A lovely strawberrylike nose opens up to a medium-bodied, pleasantly astringent wine with notes of fennel and black pepper. Delicious with red meats and grilled poultry or simply prepared game birds.

1998 Lemberger Franc Shooting Star Blue Franc, $10.49. If you don't see this dry, full-bodied red from Washington State on the shelf of your favorite wine store, order it! At $10.49 per bottle, it's a steal and goes with a variety of foods, from grilled leg of lamb to baked chicken.

1995 Carmenet Cabernet Franc, $35.99. From Moon Mountain Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, this dark, inky purple-red wine has an intriguing nose of ripe blackberries, blueberries and black pepper. Try this special-occasion wine with grilled steaks or lamb chops.

1998 Les Granges Chinon, $11.99. An exceptional bargain, this lean, elegant red has fresh fruity aromas but finishes dry. Beautiful with grilled tuna or salmon as well as most poultry, veal and pork dishes.

1997 La Casa di Bacco Cabernet Franc, D. O. C., $9.99. Deep purple-red and more robust than the Chinon (mentioned above), this medium-bodied Italian wine is tasty with spicy pasta dishes or pepper
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