Cabernet Franc might not be as influential as its offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Still, the ancient varietal has a charming personality. Much more exclusive than more popular wine grapes, Cabernet Franc is not grown everywhere, but only where it reaches its full potential.
A reliable blending partner with other grapes and often bottled as a mono-varietal, Cabernet Franc is undoubtedly amongst the most respected wine grapes. Its best examples are collectibles that certainly have a place in every cellar. Here’s all you need to know about Cabernet Franc.
The History of the Cabernet Franc Grape Variety
Cabernet Franc is an ancient grape varietal, interestingly related to lesser-known grapes native to Spain’s northern coast, in the Basque Country. The grape found its way up north through France to reach its spiritual home in the Loire Valley somewhere in the 17th-century. Some sources state Cardinal Richelieu transported cuttings of the grape to the Abbey of Bourgeil, where the grape is still planted — locals call it Breton.
Although Cabernet Franc remains a French specialty, it has found a way to wine regions globally, where it has been more than welcomed.
Cabernet Franc Thrives in the Loire Valley, in the central subregions of Touraine and Anjou. The appellations of Chinon, Saumur, Saumur-Champigny, Anjou Villages, Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas de Bourgeil make good use of the red grape.
In Bordeaux’s Right Bank, Cabernet Franc is often blended with Merlot for age-worthy red wines of cult status, particularly on the appellations of Pomerol, Saint-Émilion and satellite regions.
Lacking the instant charm that other red grapes enjoy, Cabernet Franc is not as widely planted abroad, but it’s still finding success in the United States, Italy and Argentina.
Wine Styles & Tasting Notes
Cabernet Franc has a sober, mature personality, and it’s not as fruit-forward as other popular grapes. The grape produces wines of textural beauty, often displaying red fruit aromas and a noticeable herbaceousness that makes it quite appealing.
On the palate, Cabernet Franc shows a vibrant acidity contrasted by often robust and rustic tannins — traits it shares with the blends where it plays a part.
Cabernet Franc can also be vinified as a young, approachable wine, and it’s sometimes used to make rosé. Still, its greatest expression is found in Bordeaux’s right bank, where it shares the fame with Merlot, and in the Loire Valley’s Touraine region, where its fame is uncontested.
Producers can vinify Cabernet Franc as a young, refreshing wine, but it also can be pretty sturdy and structured. This gives the grape excellent versatility on the table. When younger, Cabernet Franc is fantastic with charcuterie, paté and terrines. It’s also compatible with goat cheese and other types of fresh cheese.
Cabernet Franc pairs nicely with red meat, mainly goat and lamb, especially when seasoned with aromatic herbs to mirror the wine’s herbal undertones. Slow roasted shoulder, feathered game and offal are compatible as well. It would help to know the character of the wine before choosing the food since Cabernet Franc can be more diverse than you think.