Updated: Dec 14, 2020
The botanic birthplace of Cabernet Franc is uncertain : Is it the Basque Country? Bordeaux? Brittany? What we know for sure though, is that once upon a flowering day, somewhere in a vineyard of southwest France, Cabernet Franc fooled around with Sauvignon Blanc, and with a little help of Zephyrus, (the god of western winds), Cabernet Sauvignon was born!
A typical Cabernet Franc is less pigmented than Cabernet Sauvignon. Just ripe, it will exhibit notes of capsicum and blackcurrant leaves. Fully ripe, it will show moderate to pronounced scents of violet and red fruit, especially raspberry - from fresh to jammy - depending how warm is the growing environment. With bottle ageing, it shows a touch of earthiness & tobacco . On the palate it has lovely levels of acidity and ash-like tannins.
The main growing regions for Cabernet Franc are obviously Bordeaux and the Loire, but it also does well in Italy and the New World, including Canada, where some of it is made into ice wine.
In Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is much less planted than Cabernet Sauvignon, but it does ripen better on cooler sites. In fact, it is usually picked about a week before Cabernet Sauvignon, and growers of the left bank often keep small plantings for blending, which is especially useful in cool vintages. On the cooler soils of the right bank, it is often found near Merlot. It does strive in Pomerol or Saint-Emilion and makes up some 60 percent of the blend in the famous Château Cheval Blanc, which proves the amazing quality potential of this grape.
In the Loire, Cabernet Franc can be found as vatietal or in blends. It will show different textures and flavors depending if it grows on limestone, gravel or sandy soils in Saumur Champigny, Chinon, Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil. Beautiful examples can be found in Friuli, Tuscany, California, Washington State, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
To learn more about grape varieties, where they grow and how they taste, enroll the next WSET Level 2 Award in Wines.
Clarke, O. & Rand, M. (2015) Grapes & Wines. New York: Sterling Epicure
Robinson, J. (2015) The Oxford Companion to Wine.New York: Oxford University Press Inc