[Image of a Cabernet Franc leaf by Jo Diaz. All rights reserved.]

Cabernet Franc is a delicious Vitis vinifera. It has luscious black fruit flavors and is the grape that gave Cabernet Sauvignon its color and body. (Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Frank are the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, if you didn’t know this already.)

I once had a boss, who – like everyone else – wanted to hang his hat on Merlot (pre-Sideways). As I looked at what I had to promote for the winery, I realized that this company was a leader in growing Cabernet Franc. I worked hard to turn around the company’s thinking… Why be a small pebble on a big beach, when you can be a big pebble on a small beach? My mother taught me well with that concept, so I hammered it home. This included finally getting him a speaking engagement, and his presentation was going to be about Cabernet Franc. It was a great presentation, I felt. He came back to the winery very high on his experience, and the wine company continues to be a leader with this variety.

Cab Franc 101 ~ Here is what he went off to teach

Image of Chinon, France. Copyright: captblack76 / 123RF Stock Photo

And, what I leaned in the process, so this is a great reminder for me, as I continue to learn as much as I can about Bordeaux and my family roots. (My grandfather came from a family named Bernier. There are some really special wine companies with the name Bernier attached to it. I don’t have my grandfather’s parents names, I just know that his family immigrated to Canada, and then to Maine.)

  • It is one of the Bordeaux varieties, playing a major role as a blending component for Cabernet Sauvignons.
    • It’s less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon.
    • It’s more vigorous as a variety.
    • It delivers quality flavors.
    • Black currant fruit dominates.
    • It’s astringent in its youth.
    • It has great acidic content.
    • It can be slightly earthy, sometimes.
    • Dark red/purple to red/brown in color.
  • It’s also referred to as:
    • Bouchy of the Pyrenees
    • Brenton of the Loire

Some Advantages

  • Less susceptible to winter kill
  • Matures fairly quickly
  • Ready to drink within a year or so of harvest
  • Less structured wine than Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Has more aromatic finesse
  • Softer wine than Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Length on the finish
  • In a blend, it softens the Cabernet Sauvignon’s tannins
  • Adds complexity and definition to middle palate

LOCATIONS in EUROPE

FRANCE – BORDEAUX

  • Bordeaux
    • Saint Émilion – Often called bouchet or bouchet blanc – 25-30 percent of the blend
    • Médoc – Sometimes known as grand carmenet or gros cabernet – 10-20 percent of blend
    • Pomerol – After Merlot, Cabernet Franc is the next most important grape. Used for blending
    • Graves – Used for blending
  • Loire Vineyards – Only grown for its own virtue, Vinified to produce a while wine, it is often
    • Blended with Chenin Blanc in the production of sparkling Loire wines
    • Anjou – (Best known for its rose wines) Labeled Cabernet d’Anjou or Rose de Loire
    • Saumur Champigny
    • Touraine
    • Chinon
      • If you think of red wines as invariably full-bodied and hearty, the light, tart reds of Chinon in the Loire may come as a surprise. Made from the Cabernet Franc grape, these wines are generally light-bodied but tartly acidic — which sometimes makes them a particularly pleasant match with food — and often show a distinctive “green,” herbaceous quality.
      • The wines… Can be a very hazy, ruby color. Tart cherry and green vegetal aromas lead into a crisp red-fruit flavor, quite lean and tart, but pleasant Cabernet Franc flavor carries through. Fresh, acidic, it’s light-bodied but full-flavored.
    • Bourgueil
  • South-West France – The nearer you are to Bordeaux, the more likely you are to find Bordelais varieties – Used for blending

SPAIN

  • Rioja, along the river Ebro

NORTHEAST ITALY

Light, attractive wines simply labeled Cabernet are likely to be Cabernet Franc. Of the more than 20,000 acres of Cabernet planted in Italy, 80 percent are Cabernet Franc.

  • Veneto
  • Friuli
  • Trentino-Alto Adige

UNITED STATES

  • California – By 1900 cultivation of Vitis vinifera hit California
  • Washington State
  • New York – Long Island & Finger Lakes
  • Maryland

Other Areas in The World

  • Australia – Very little planted
  • South Africa– Very little planted
  • Tasmania – It is often difficult to tell whether a wine is made form Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc; although, most of it tastes like Cabernet Franc.

*Thank you Millesima CIE for the inspiration to learn more about Bordeaux this year. It’s working and I’m grateful for the lessons. Roots for me, which weren’t quite this understood.