Cabernet Franc: The Elegant Understudy

Welcome to the understated world of Cabernet Franc, a red grape variety that often stands in the shadow of its more illustrious offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon. Yet, with its vibrant aromatics, elegant structure, and diverse expressions, Cabernet Franc is a grape that captivates the palates of those who delve into its nuanced character.

A Brief History

Cabernet Franc traces its roots back to the Basque country, from where it spread to Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. It is one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, the other being Sauvignon Blanc. Often seen as a blending grape in Bordeaux, it shines on its own in regions like the Loire Valley, where it produces expressive, complex wines that truly highlight its unique qualities.


In the vineyard, Cabernet Franc ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, making it suitable for cooler climates. It is often more aromatic, with a lighter body and softer tannins, which allows it to be enjoyed younger than many Cabernet Sauvignon wines. However, it also has a good aging potential, gaining complexity over time.

Flavour Profile

The flavor profile of Cabernet Franc can vary significantly with climate and winemaking decisions. Generally, it is known for its red fruit flavors—especially raspberry and red cherry—and distinctive vegetal or herbaceous notes, which can range from bell pepper to leafy, almost floral undertones. Spices, graphite, and violets are also common descriptors, especially for aged examples.

Different Styles of Wine

Cabernet Franc can be crafted into various styles, from light and fruity, meant for early drinking, to more structured and complex wines with aging potential. In cooler climates, such as the Loire Valley, it tends to be lighter in body with higher acidity and pronounced mineral and herbaceous notes. In warmer regions, the wines can be more full-bodied, with riper fruit flavors and softer acidity.

Wine Making and Maturation Options

Cabernet Franc is often vinified in stainless steel or concrete to preserve its fruity freshness, but oak aging can be used to add complexity and smooth out tannins. The length of maceration and choice of yeast during fermentation can greatly influence the wine’s flavor and aroma profile.

Important Regions

While Bordeaux is a well-known home for Cabernet Franc as a blending grape, the Loire Valley is where it truly comes into its own, particularly in appellations like Chinon and Bourgueil. Outside France, it has found success in Northern Italy, California, and Argentina, as well as in cooler climates like Canada and New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Food Pairing Suggestions

Cabernet Franc’s high acidity and medium body make it very food-friendly. It pairs beautifully with a variety of dishes, from roasted poultry and pork to grilled vegetables and earthy flavors like mushrooms and lentils. Its herbaceous qualities can also complement herb-infused dishes, making it a versatile wine at the dinner table.

To explore Cabernet Franc is to discover a grape variety that offers charm, depth, and a delightful freshness, beautifully expressing the characteristics of the terroir in which it grows.

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Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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