Cabernet Franc is one of the major varieties of red wine grape in Bordeaux. It is mostly grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but is also vinified alone, particularly in Chinon in the Loire. It is even made into ice wine in Canada.
Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon (of which it is a parent), contributing finesse and a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on growing region and the style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, and cassis, sometimes even violets. The Cabernet franc wine’s color is bright pale red.
Cab franc leaf.There are records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux going back to the end of the 18th century and it was planted in Loire long before that. The fact that it is known as Breton in the Loire suggests that it originally came from Brittany, which would be consistent with its preference for cooler temperatures.
Recent DNA research has shown that Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
Cabernet Franc vineyard planted near Paarl, South Africa.Other than in the Loire, Cabernet Franc is usually planted by growers wanting to emulate the Bordeaux blend, known elsewhere as the Meritage blend. Aside from the countries mentioned below, it is planted in Argentina, the Balkans, Chile, New Zealand, Romania and South Africa.
As with so many grapes, Cabernet Franc came to Australia in James Busby’s collection of 1832. It predominantly grows in cool, cool to warm and warm climates such as North-Eastern Victoria, McLaren Vale, and the Clare Valley.
Cabernet Franc is a key blending grape with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It adds tannins for added mouthfeel and increases the complexity of the wine. The wine pictured is a Canadian blend of Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.Cabernet Franc is becoming more popular in Canada, being planted in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County, the north shore of Lake Erie, Pelee Island, and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
The ice wines made from Cabernet Franc in the Niagara Peninsula are a curiosity.
There are over 14,000 hectares of Cabernet Franc in France. It is valued in Bordeaux for adding finesse to blends containing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but is seldom more than 10-20% of the blend. One notable exception is Château Cheval Blanc, where it makes up about two-thirds of the blend. In Saint-Émilion it is known as Bouchet.
Cabernet Franc is also the main component of the red wines of the Loire, particularly in Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur. Although these are thought of as light wines for drinking with food in the summer, in good vintages they can last 10 years or more, particularly when the blend is stiffened with a little Malbec.
It is now recommended for planting throughout France, and can be found blended with Carignan in the Midi and with Tannat in Basses Pyrénées. It can also be found in the blends of rosé wine.
In all the Hungarian wine regions producing reds, especially in Villány and Szekszárd, the grape is used in Bordeaux-style blends and is also bottled as a varietal wine.
With 5,700ha, there’s more Cabernet Franc in Italy than commonly thought. It is mostly planted in the far northeast of Italy, particularly in Friuli, but it is also found in the wines of the Veneto, as part of some Chianti blends, even as far south as Puglia. It is known as Bordo in the Veneto.
This variety of grape is not very common in Spain and is to be found mainly in Catalonia, where it is an authorised variety in four Denominaciones de Origen: Catalunya DO, Conca de Barberá DO, Penedés DO and Terra Alta DO.
Interest in the grape started with Californian wine makers, who wanted to replicate the Bordeaux blend (now marketed as Meritage). Plantings since 1980 account for most of the 800ha now grown in California, over half of which is in Napa and Sonoma.
More recently it has caught the attention of growers in cooler areas such as Long Island and the Finger Lakes of New York, Michigan’s west coast and in Washington state and in the Monticello wine region in the Piedmont of Virginia. Michigan State University conducts research on Cabernet Franc at their agricultural research center in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Vine and Viticulture
Studies have shown that Cabernet Franc crossed with Sauvignon blanc to create Cabernet Sauvignon which shares a similar appearance to Cabernet Franc.In general Cabernet Franc is very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but buds and ripens a little earlier and prefers a slightly cooler climate. The vine is vigorous and upright, with dark-green, 5-lobed leaves. The winged bunches are elongate and small-medium in size. The small berries are quite small and blue-black in colour, with fairly thin skins.
Aceria, Acheria, Arrouya, Bordo, Bouchet, Bouchy (Gascony), Breton, Burdeas Tinto, Cabernet, Cabernet Aunis, Cabernet Franco, Capbreton Rouge, Carmenet (Médoc), Fer Servandou, Gamput, Grosse Vidure, Hartling, Kaberne Fran, Messanges Rouge, Morenoa, Noir Dur, Petit Fer, Petit Viodure, Petite Vidure, Petite Vignedure, Plant Breton, Plant Des Sables, Trouchet Noir, Véron, Véron Bouchy, Véronais, and Cabernet Gris.