Cabernet franc is not a grape that many consumers are familiar with, but that will change with a glass of the 2006 Chateau de Vaugaudry Cuvee Prestige.

Wine drinkers of Saint-Emilion recognize cabernet franc as one of the grapes blended into the wines from that world-renowned appellation. And while other Bordeaux wines also use cabernet franc in the blend, there are a few villages in France’s Loire Valley that dedicate their wines to cabernet franc: Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saint-Nicholas de Bourgueil.

Located in Chinon, Chateau de Vaugaudry was built in 1820 by Senator Joubert, a member of the French parliament. Marc Belloy purchased it in 1980, and today it is directed by his son, Antoine Belloy. Together, they restored the chateau, replanted the vineyards and modernized the winery.

In January, I tasted the 2006 Chateau de Vaugaudry Chinon Cuvee Prestige and its special cuvee, the 2003 Clos du Plessis-Gerbault, at the monthly meeting of the Wine Media Guild, a wine writers’ society. A few weeks ago, I tasted the 2006 Cuvee Prestige again, and the 2005 Clos du Plessis-Gerbault. While both the Cuvee Prestige and the Clos du Plessis-Gerbault are made only from Cabernet Franc, the difference between the two is that the latter is made from a selection of the best grapes from older vines and aged longer. Consider it a reserve wine in the real meaning of that term.

While I enjoyed the extra depth and complexity of the 2005 Clos du Plessis-Gerbault, the elegance and clarity of the cabernet franc in the 2006 Cuvee Prestige captured my palate.

In both tastings, the 2006 Cuvee Prestige offered cherry, coffee, and black tea-like aromas; its mix of blackberry, coffee and tobacco flavors are quintessential cabernet franc traits. Built on a medium body, the pleasing fruit is supported by round tannins that let the wine glide to a long, balanced finish. This is a delightful wine that will satisfy cabernet franc aficionados, open a new wine window to cabernet franc novices and show why cabernet franc rules Chinon vineyards.

Cabernet franc’s medium-body and fruit and tannin structure make it ideal for those who like to drink red wine with fish. I find it perfect with spring’s arrival of shad, tuna or salmon with black olive tapenade, or when summer arrives, grilled bluefish with chopped garden tomatoes, capers and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Chateau de Vaugaudry 2006 Cuvee Prestige retails for approximately $17; the Clos du Plessis-Gerbault is a few dollars more.