Cabernet Franc is probably not quite a household name, it is not one of the big noble grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay that everyone knows and of which there are acres and acres of planted across multiple countries around the globe. If you scan the shelves of your grocery store or local liquor store you probably won’t see a section for just 100% Cabernet Franc and in fact single varietal bottlings of this wine are rare. But Cabernet Franc really is a wine you should know a little something about, if for no other reason that it is the parent of one of the most famous and well-known wines on the planet Cabernet Sauvignon.
But aside from its offspring this is a wine you should familiarize yourself with because of its beautiful spicy notes and violet aromas. Thought it is rare that you find a 100% varietal bottling of this wine, it is a key component in maybe Bordeaux blends where other members of the cabernet family strengthen its flavors and where it can bring out a spicy, herbal note and a bright acidity in these big blends. Originally a Bordeaux varietal it is most notable in the villages of St. Emilion and Medoc on the left bank of Bordeaux and Pomerol on the right bank. In these famous regions it is almost always utilized as a blending grape. However, in Chinon in the Loire valley some of the most famous single varietal Cabernet Franc in the world is produced.
Outside of its native France Cabernet Franc has struggled to find a foothold. In the United States it is mostly used in blends with other Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. There are a few more wineries experimenting with single varietal cabernet franc but even still the grape doesn’t have a huge amount of acreage in the states. While in Australia Cabernet Franc is grown extensively and used in both blends and varietal bottlings, most notably in Clare Valley and McLaren Vale.
Cabernet Franc is a relatively small grape with a high acidity that produces medium bodied reds with flavors of currant, raspberry, and strawberry as well as notes of bay leaf, mint, violet, smoke, toast, and vanilla. Most notably though Cabernet Franc is know for its herbal flavors, these can range from slightly tobacco to pungently leafy. It’s signature acidity makes it a very food friendly grape and because of this inherently herbal quality it is a great match to dishes involving herbs and vegetables. It also pairs very well with goat cheese, a cheese that is itself high in acidity with a little bit of a spicy herbal note of its own. It also pairs extremely well with Mexican cuisine where the rich tomato based sauces provide a background to the acid in the wine and the spice of the varietal finds a match with the spice in the food.
Graphic courtesy of Wine Folly