What is Cabernet Franc?

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc Harvest

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc Harvest

Have you been curious about the taste of Cabernet Franc when someone orders a glass with their meal? You may very well have had a wine made with Cabernet Franc from France, or even California, and not known. All too often we stay in the safe zone with our wine choices, rarely venturing outside of our “wine box”. After reading this, you’ll not only know what to expect in that glass of Cabernet Franc, but you’l be able to pair it with foods, and talk about it, if you want.

The History of Cabernet Franc

A black berry, because grapes are indeed berries, Cabernet Franc can be found in many parts of the world, though it’s most well suited in France, from the Loire Valley as well as Bordeaux.  However, you’ll find wines made from mostly Cabernet Franc in California, as well as New York, and Virginia, amongst other areas. It is one of the oldest varieties of grape in Bordeaux, with documented evidence of Cabernet Franc in Loire vineyards near Chinon dating back to 1534, though under the name Breton. Cabernet Franc was then mentioned in Pomerol in 1716. Cabernet Franc was crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to make the popular wine grape Cabernet Sauvignon.

What Do Cabernet Franc Wines Taste Like?

One of the main Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Franc is primarily a blending grape. Cabernet Franc is paler, lighter, crisper, softer and more aromatic than Cabernet Sauvignon, which lends finesses and peppery aromas to the wine when blended with grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Green pepper, tomato and vegetable greens are often scents and tastes found in Cabernet Franc in an underripe bottling. However, in more recent vintages, longer, warmer growing seasons and advanced vineyard practices have produced more fruit focused and floral tastes, eliminating some of the green and herbaceous notes from the flavor profile. You can find wines made mostly, or exclusively, from Cabernet Franc in Chinon, as well as parts of the US, such as California and New York as previously mentioned. I recently reviewed the Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Franc, which could have been made with the grapes being harvest in the photo above, which came from the Cornerstone Cellars Harvest Blog.

Food Pairing with Cabernet Franc Includes Prime Rib and other roast beef dishes

Food Pairing with Cabernet Franc Includes Prime Rib

Food Pairings with Cabernet Franc

Wines made from Cabernet Franc grapes like foods that have a fair fat content, and are roasted. Think of drinking cabernet franc wine when you are eating:

  • Beef, whether steak or roasts
  • Cheese, especially goat whether alone or in a dish
  • Roasted duck
  • Venison chops, steaks or burgers
  • Grilled or roast eggplant, or eggplant parmesan
  • Lamb, especially grilled and roasted
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Pasta with red sauce, especially a meat sauce / bolognese sauce

Are you a fan of Cabernet Franc? Let me know which one you’ve enjoyed in the past by leaving a comment below.

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4 thoughts on “What is Cabernet Franc?

  1. Nice overview! I think it tends to be hit or miss as to whether I will like a cab franc (the 100% versions at least). A good one can be nice with hearty meat dishes for sure.

  2. Colin Elliott says:

    “”Cabernet Franc is paler, lighter, crisper, softer and more aromatic than Cabernet Sauvignon,”"

    No, not if you are talking about Loire (Chinon, Bourgueil, etc).
    It is paler and lighter, but certainly not softer and more aromatic than Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux (Cab. Sauv. rarely ripens properly here).
    Cabernet Franc is highly tannic and takes a few years of maturation to soften in the versions from the Loire.
    The real point is, it depends where it is grown.
    In Bordeaux it is always blended. In the Loire, it rarely is.

  3. Thank you David, I appreciate your comment. I also have been more Miss than hit on 100% Cabernet Franc. The Stepping Stone I reviewed earlier in the month seemed to be a hit!

  4. Colin
    Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate it.
    So, the quote you reference came straight from Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes, published in 2012. Her exact description from page 365 is:
    “Wine made from Cabernet Franc is generally paler, lighter, crisper, softer and more obviously aromatic than that of its progeny Cabernet Sauvignon.”

    I do agree that the origin of the grape will influence it’s characteristics, which is why Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa is different than Cab Sauv from Bordeaux and Chile.

    Your comment, however, leads me to believe I have many more Cabernet Franc bottles to try before I write my own book on Grapes of the World!

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