Cabernet Franc Primer - "Franc-ly Speaking"


GO “Franc” Yourself

Cabernet Franc is the parent grape of both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It may have originated in Spain, but this can’t be validated. We do know that it has been around since the 11th century in the Loire Valley of France. More specifically, in the appellations of Chinon, Bourgueil, Saumur, Saumur-Champigny, Anjou, and Anjou-Villages (middle Loire Valley). It is also used as a varietal wine from around the world in New York, Washington, California, Canada, and Italy. Some minor producers in Chile, Argentina, and South Africa. The grape does play a major part to some of the greatest and sought-after wines like Bordeaux blends, but with a high price tag. Notable producers being Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Ausone.

In France, as well as New York (signature red grape) and Canada, the wines are generally aromatic with significant notes of red berries and cherries, herbaceous, such as bell pepper, floral, tobacco, cigar spice, pepper, and wet gravel. The cool climate produces lighter color, lighter body (still medium bodied), higher acidity, medium tannins, and more herb notes. The higher acid allows it to be paired well with high acid foods, like tomato-based dishes. More rustic and layered in its character than dark, heavy fruit forward reds can be appealing and a great option for use in roses. Poorly made Cab Francs can be thin, overly herbaceous, and noticeably unripe. They also can be very reasonably priced with great value and age quite well with baked plum and tobacco flavors.

In Tuscany, the warmer climate gives Cab Franc richer fruit flavors. The region’s red clay soils increase the tannin structure as well. Cab Franc often appears in “Super Tuscan” blends in the region. In the Sierra Foothills of Cali, the warm climate makes for ripe, sweet grapes with lower acidity. They are generally jammy and fruit forward with higher alcohol content. Not much Cabernet Franc produced here.

Cabernet Franc surely reflects the terroir in which is grown and produced from. Given its nobility, history, and prominence, why isn’t it a more respected grape?



Michael Nagy

WSET Level 3

Wine Educator