Cabernet Franc is a black-skinned French wine grape variety grown in most wine producing nations. The variety is most famously known as the third grape of Bordeaux and can be found in many of the world’s top Bordeaux Blend wines. Cabernet Franc most commonly appears in blended red wines, where it adds herbaceous accents of tobacco and dark spice.
As a varietal wine, Cabernet Franc is light to medium bodied and often shows vegetal characteristics, in particular green bell peppers. This has led many wine drinkers to incorrectly identify Cabernet Franc as unripe Cabernet Sauvignon, or even Carmenere. This has been highlighted in Friuli, Italy, where plantings that were thought to be Cabernet Franc were later classified as Carmenere.
Cabernet Franc is commonly compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, which is not without justification; the Cabernet Sauvignon variety is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. (Recent DNA profiling has also shown that Cabernet Franc is also one of Merlot's parents). But in the vineyard, Cabernet Franc ripens at least a week earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. While it has thinner skin and lower acidity, it is also known for its hardiness and often grown as an "insurance" grape.
Cabernet Franc’s home is widely accepted as Libournais in Bordeaux. Within this sub-region are the prestigious villages of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, which is where some of the most highly regarded Cabernet Franc wines originate, such as Cheval Blanc (typically around two-thirds Cabernet Franc) and Ausone (which is an even split of Cabernet Franc and Merlot).
Cabernet Franc prefers cool, inland climates such as the Loire Valley. The towns of Chinon and Saumur are important bastions of varietal Cabernet Franc wines, which are prized for their aromas of ripe berry and sweet spices. Lighter examples from these appellations generally exhibit graphite and red licorice notes, with darker wines showing more cigar and leather aromas. The local Loire Valley name for Cabernet Franc is Breton. This is not a reference to Bretagne, the region just north-west of the Loire, but the name of the man credited with bringing the variety to popularity in the 17th Century. Abbot Breton, of Bourgueil Abbey, planted and tended to his Cabernet Franc vines with such care that local vine growers followed his lead and began producing what was to become the Loire Valley's signature style of red wine. (© Proprietary Content, Wine-Searcher)
Outside France, Cabernet Franc is grown in Italy, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the Americas. In Canada, Cabernet Franc is produced as a dry red wine, but perhaps more interestingly as an icewine in Ontario. Further south, in the United States, it is grown in California, Washington and Long Island, frequently under the Meritage banner. Argentina and Chile also produce limited quantities of varietal Cabernet Franc wine.
Synynoms include: Bordo, Bouchet, Bouchy, Breton, Cabernet Franco, Cabernet Frank.
Food matches for Cabernet Franc include:
Lentil soup with smoked ham hock
Herb-crusted lamb rack