It may play second fiddle to Cabernet Sauvignon, but Cabernet Franc lovers will tell you that Cab Franc’s violet nose and peppery finish give the grape an appeal of its own. Get to know this grape and its beautiful, floral wines in our Guide to Cabernet Franc.
Guide to Cabernet Franc
Origin of Cabernet Franc
The origin of Cabernet Franc is unknown, but it is believed to have originated in France. Cabernet Franc was first recorded in the 17th century when its cuttings were transported from the Libournais region of southern France to the Loire Valley.
Primary Regions of Cabernet Franc
Although Cabernet Franc is primarily known as a blending grape that is used in Bordeaux wines, it is also grown in the Chinon region of France and bottled as 100% Cabernet Franc in many locations (including California, Washington State, Argentina, Chile, Australia).
Cabernet Franc is rarely grown by itself. In most cases (particularly in Bordeaux), it is grown alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, and is typically harvested one week before Cabernet Sauvignon. When blended together, Cabernet Franc gives the wine a beautiful fragrance and finesse. But do not be fooled: on its own, Cab Franc is a delicious wine that holds its own. If you have the opportunity to sample a 100% Cab Franc, take it!
Characteristics of Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc often exhibits bell pepper, raspberry, violet, and tobacco aromas. It tends towards flavors of strawberries, flowers, plums, and cherries and has a peppery finish. It can also have mineral notes of crushed gravel.
The comparison of Cabernet Franc to Cabernet Sauvignon is understandable: in many ways Cabernet Franc does possess many of the same qualities as the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. This is due in part to the grapes being so closely related: at some point in history, Cabernet Franc crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to create Cabernet Sauvignon.
Compared to its parent grape, Cab Franc exhibits many of its offspring’s trademark qualities, but on a milder level: it has a medium level of alcohol and medium-high levels of tannins and acidity. But Cabernet Franc also has a stronger aroma and more herbaceous qualities and often exudes a beautiful, floral aroma and the peppery finish for which it is known.
Cabernet Franc Pairing Suggestions
As with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc pairs well with grilled red meats, game, and stews. However, because it is medium-bodied, it also fares well with lighter meats such as roasted chicken, quail, and duck. (In fact, the acidity of the wine cuts the fattiness of duck perfectly.)
Since Cabernet Franc has a higher level of acidity than Cabernet Sauvignon, it pairs better with highly acidic foods, such as tomato-based dishes. (This is a pairing that is difficult with Cabernet Sauvignon). Try a medium-bodied Cab Franc with medium-spiced Indian dishes, tomato-heavy, lentils, gallo pinto, meat-based pastas, and pizza (yes, pizza!). A classic Cabernet Franc food pairing is warm toasted walnuts, pears and blue cheese crumbles: try pairing Cab Franc with a pizza that has these toppings.
A classic rule of thumb when pairing Cabernet Franc is to try and match the herbs in the wine with the herbs in a dish. Are you making a roasted chicken? Open the wine, sample it, and note the herbs. If you detect more rosemary than thyme, consider flavoring your roasted chicken with rosemary. Or sauté some mushrooms and flavor them with the accompanying herb.
Cabernet Franc Serving Temperature
Cabernet Franc should be served between 65 and 70 degrees. Serving it colder will stifle the delicate floral aromas and flavors and serving it warmer will make it seem more fruity and less dry.
Remember to aerate or decant Cabernet Franc. It needs at least 30 minutes to open up before serving. this will allow full expression of its beautiful aromas.
Cabernet Franc Suggestions
Lang & Reed (California)
Bodega del Desierto’s Desierto Pampa (Argentina)