Cabernet Franc grapes are a popular French varietal with black skin. It is one of the most common wine grapes around the globe and has been used in countless blends over its centuries of use in creating fine wines.
You would be hard-pressed to find a single wine connoisseur who doesn’t have multiple expressions of this particular grape outlined in his or her wine journal or who hasn’t lavished one of its wines with high praise at one point or another. Known affectionately as the “third grape of Bordeaux,” Cabernet Franc is also one of the most common grapes in blended reds, lending its aromatic accents of spice and tobacco to the appeal of the vintages it graces.
Cabernet Franc Origin
The origin of Cabernet Franc is accepted to be Libournais in Bordeaux. The villages of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol are part of this region, and each village produces some of the most sought-after vintages of Cabernet Franc anywhere in the world.
Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon
The grapes themselves are often compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, and this is not without reason. Cabernet Sauvignon does contain some of the same genetics, being a hybrid of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Recent studies into the DNA of Cabernet Franc have proven it to be a parent of Merlot as well. The clear difference between Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon is seen in its ripening time. Cabernet Franc ripens a minimum of one week earlier than the Sauvignon.
Cabernet Franc Blends
The wines derived from Cabernet Franc are typically light or medium-bodied and add notes of green bell pepper and other vegetal qualities to its blends. The inclusion of these qualities can trip up even the most educated palate, fooling it into thinking it is tasting Cabernet Sauvignon, or perhaps even Carmenere.
Cultivation of Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc prefers a cool, inland growing environment. Regions like the Loire Valley provide the perfect climate and terroirs for producing excellent expressions with their sweet spice and berry aromas and medium-bodied flavours. Lighter varieties are also produced in that region and have been compared to red licorice with notes of graphite on the palate.
Outside of France, the grapes are widely cultivated in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and South Africa as well as in North and South America. Canada produces a number of dry reds, while the United States generally produces lighter varieties found in New York, Washington State, and California. Some South American countries, like Chile and Argentina, also produce Cabernet Franc blends in limited quantities.