Cabernet Franc wine is one of the most underrated red wines in the world. Many people are not very familiar with it, but it is the backbone to many great red blends. Producers in France commonly use this in their blends, specifically in Bordeaux.
On this page, you will uncover its history, common flavors & aromas and some of the top regions growing it. Overall, you will get a clear pictures on why it is one of the most important red wines in the world.
Three Cabernet Franc vines growing at Chateau Pontet Canet in Bordeaux. This was part of a display showcasing all six red wine types allowed in the Bordeaux region.
To fully understand this French red, let's start with its place in history. There is some debate as to the exact location of its origin.
Many associate it as being from Bordeaux originally, but is more likely from regions further south in France. It was then brought north - first to the Loire Valley and then down to Bordeaux - sometime in the 1700s.
Researchers discovered the key to the importance of this one in 1997. At this time, they were conducting DNA research on many wines to fully understand their background and relationship to one another.
During this research, they concluded that Cabernet Franc wine is a parent to one of the most grown red wines in the world - Cabernet Sauvignon wine.
For years, wine makers planted both red and white grapes together in their vineyards. At some point, a Cabernet Franc vine crossed with the white wine Sauvignon Blanc. Researchers believe that this crossing of vines in the vineyard created the now famous Cabernet Sauvignon.
This thinner skinned grape grows well in temperate or cool climates. It ripens earlier than many other red wines, so the cooler temperatures ensure it ripens to its full potential before harvest.
The vines are tough enough to survive cold weather. This makes it the perfect match for regions located a little further north.
It's a light to medium bodied type of red. At its best, it produces fruity wines with hints of raspberry, cherry, cedar and bell peppers. Common aromas include violets, herbs and grass.
Did you know you can continue to enjoy a bottle for a week or more after you open it? Find tips for making your open bottle last a little longer.
For years, many producers only saw this as a blending grape. Many of the grapes produced had a high concentration of herbs and grassy tastes and aromas.
These flavors made it unappealing as a single varietal wine. However, its ability to strengthen some wines and soften others made it a favored blending grape.
Recently, several producers unlocked the secret to growing these grapes. This is now allowing them to create drinkable - and enjoyable - single varietal Cabernet Franc wines.
In addition, some producers are also using this red wine type to make popular ice wines.
Not only it is a blending grape, but it is one of the three most used grapes in the famous Bordeaux red wine blend. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are the two main grapes in the blend. Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Malbec are also sometimes used.
Cabernet Franc wine is a key component to the Bordeaux blends on the right bank. Here Merlot is the lead and producers blend it with a high percentage of it.
In fact, one of the top wines, Chateau Cheval Blanc, from the Bordeaux region is made with a higher percentage of this red than Merlot.
Le Petit Cheval is the 'second wine' at Chateau Cheval Blanc. Its blend is
also mainly Cabernet Franc. I was luck enough to get a small sample of this one at a wine tasting bar in Bordeaux called Max's. It's a little blurry since it's behind a thick piece of glass.
In addition to France, other regions around the world are using this one in their blends. Wineries in Napa Valley California use it mainly as a blending grape for their Bordeaux style or Meritage blends.
The best examples of single varietal wines come from the region to the north of Bordeaux - the Loire Valley. These are some of my favorite every day wines from France.
They have the perfect balance of red fruit flavors, acidity and alcohol. The last time we had one, we enjoyed it with a pizza dinner and it was a perfect compliment to the meal. It was also a great value under $20 a bottle.
When buying this wine from the Loire Valley, look for those from one of these appellations: Chinon, Saumur & Bourgueil. They are the best examples of this in this region. Chinon seems to be the easiest one to find outside of France (learn a little more about what to expect from the wine from these three wine regions in the Loire Valley).
Anjou is another region in the Loire Valley using Cabernet Franc. This region creates lighter roses from these grapes.
I've also recently tried a number of flavorful single varietal ones from the Finger Lakes region in New York. Producers in Virginia are also starting to finding success with this grape.
The best way to learn even more about it is to try one. If you are lucky, you should be able to find one or two of them at your local wine store.
Wine.com also has a wide selection of these wines. Buying them online is an easy way to find exactly the type you want to try.
Here are some quick links to help you find the one that is right for you:
Most do not need to age for more than 3 to 5 years. This makes them a perfect find - as you can enjoy them right away.
The only ones that need a little more time to age are the higher end Saint Emilion and Pomerol wines - those that are more than $100 a bottle. Other Saint Emilion and Pomerol wines should be consumed after around 5 to 7 years, since these blends are usually a little heavier. This is why they need a little more time to age.
You can pair this with almost any meal. Since these are fairly inexpensive wines, I tend to enjoy them with everyday meals such as pizza, pasta or burgers.
Just make sure you don't pair them with anything that is too spicy or has powerful flavors. Both of these will overwhelm this wine and you will not be able to taste its flavors as much.
You should serve these wines at around 60° to 65° F (16° to 18° C). This brings out its true flavors (find more tips for serving your wines at the proper temperature).
You can also serve these in any standard red glass. Here are just a few top rated options available on Amazon.com.
This one has a few different names. In the Loire Valley, they also call it Breton. Bouchy is the name sometimes used in the southern French wine regions. In Saint Emilion in Bordeaux, they sometimes refer to it as Bouchet.
Here are just a few comparisons between this wine and other popular reds.
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