Bordeaux ~ Cabernet Franc, a Luscious Bordeaux Variety ~ partie sept

[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



  • 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


  • Rioja, along the river Ebro


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


  • 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.

6 Responses to “Bordeaux ~ Cabernet Franc, a Luscious Bordeaux Variety ~ partie sept”

  1. Hi again, Jo

    I was very happy with your summary of Cabernet franc characteristics including the amazing properties of its monovarietal wines as you mentioned.
    The interesting aspect for me is that although we know that Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc are parents to Cabernet sauvignon, you would hardly guess that a cross between a white grape variety and a red grape which is thinner-skinned and much less tannic would give rise to an offspring that is thick-skinned and highly tannic.
    Similarly, is is hard to believe (but not unreasonable) and to discover, via microsatellite DNA analysis, that Cabernet franc has also been tentatively found to be a parent of the most ancient American hybrid rootstock called variously, Jacquez, Black Spanish and Lenoir.
    This new ‘evidence’ that Jacquez was naturally generated from hybridization events involving the Vitis vinifera cultivar, Cabernet franc, with a ‘wild’ Vitis aestivalis grapevine species took place at some point in early colonial America (around the middle of the 18th century).
    One possible reason why Cabernet franc was more successful than other European cultivars in growing reasonably successfully at that time in the eastern American colonies could be because, as you also mentioned, is one of the most cold-hardy Vitis vinifera varieties known.
    This fact most likely played an important ‘role’ in that region that resulted in the eventual hybridization event that gave rise to the ‘amazing’ Jacquez cultivar.

    I am dying to taste some of the Texan Black Spanish Madeira wine that is now being produced there.

    Have a good one!


  2. Jo Diaz says:

    I’m very happy that you weighed in, Jerry. I knew nothing about “Cabernet franc has also been tentatively found to be a parent of the most ancient American hybrid rootstock called variously, Jacquez, Black Spanish and Lenoir. This new ‘evidence’ that Jacquez was naturally generated from hybridization events involving the Vitis vinifera cultivar, Cabernet franc, with a ‘wild’ Vitis aestivalis grapevine species took place at some point in early colonial America (around the middle of the 18th century).” This is really fascinating and enlightening.

    I’m now going to dig deeper into Cabernet Franc coming here in the mid 1700s. Was it Jefferson who brought it here? He did bring a lot of grape vines from France and gave it his best shot, but his vineyard failed. I haven’t read why – as much as I’ve read about his endeavors. My theory for his vines mysteriously disappearing would be phylloxera. Hum…

  3. Hi Jo

    I totally agree with you that there was a great probability that, because phylloxera was endemic in those Eastern Colonial states at that time, many a Vitis vinifera cultivar would have succumbed to the louse and the European grapevines would have eventually all died off.

    However, it is also well-known that the phylloxera louse cannot attack the roots of grapevines that happen to be planted and growing in sandy soils. So there is a reasonable possibility that some European vines growing in that area at that time might have survived in such sandy soils just long enough to ensure a successful cross-pollination with a ‘wild’ Vitis aestivalis which is indigenous to that region.

    Besides the very cold Winters that are experienced in those same Eastern regions (although I think Cab franc most likely would survive those), another disease which I could foresee as being a big problem too would be the old powdery mildew.

    But to be honest, I don’t have all the answers for you in explaining the apparent success of Cabernet franc in becoming a parent of the Jacquez cultivar.

    Go well…

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Sandy soil, huh? Who knew. You be well, too, Jerry.

  5. Lori says:

    Shared on #CabFrancDay’s Facebook page

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