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Cabernet Franc grapes

Cabernet Franc is a black grape variety. Mostly used with wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the grape is used worldwide.

In addition to being a pure French grape, it is also grown in the US and Canada, where they make their own unique wines from these grapes; some of the examples can be ‘ice wines’.

The grape gives off a light produce after fermentation that has a fine, peppery flavour and perfume to it.

Several blends exist that give the Cabernet Franc an excellent fragrance and flavour to it.

Depending on the blend, Cabernet Franc can have a range of aromas including tobacco, raspberries and cassis.

Wine grape varieties

Historically, the Cabernet Franc is a recent addition to the vine variety of France.

However, some evidence suggests it was planted long back in Loire, something that we will discuss here.

We will also discuss the grape’s relation with Carmenere and Merlot.

Remember to read the Wine Tasting guide…


Origins and history

Cabernet Franc’s origins are somewhat debated. First said to be established in the Libournais region of southwest France sometime in the 17th century, these grapes spread across France with most plantations found at Fronsac, Pomerol and St. Emilion.

It was Cardinal Richelieu, who first planted these grapes; that became popular in vine regions of France.

As the grape became more and more popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, similarities between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were noticed.

Recent DNA analysis has shown the latter grape to cross with Sauvignon Blanc to produce what is now known as the Cabernet Sauvignon variety.

Viticulture and wine regions

Cabernet Franc are an early budding variety, ripening at least a week earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, although there are much similarities between the two, as discussed above.

Characterised as having deep green leaves, the vine is mostly upright with five lobed leaves.

The grape has a better chance of growing at cooler regions like the valleys of the Loire, although it also susceptible to parasites and infections like coulure.

Harvesters need to be attentive on the growth cycle and any sign of hazards. These grapes are also much prone to mutation and modifications than Cabernet Sauvignon.

As far as soil types are concerned, the Cabernet Franc grows best in sandy soils producing more heavy bodied vines. The grape is highly yield sensitive and can give green, leafy flavours.

Cabernet Franc vines are grown in a lot of countries. Originally grown in France, the grape is found in abundance in Italy, Hungary, Spain, Canada, Croatia, Russia, China, Kazakhstan as well as Slovenia and Bulgaria.

In Italy, some 17,300 hectares existed in 2000 alone. Tuscany, Veneto and Friuli are some of the Cabernet Franc regions in Italy.

In Hungary, Cabernet Franc is found growing in Villany and Szekszard provinces in addition to Eger region.

In the United States, some 3,400 acres of Cabernet Franc vines existed in 1986 alone.

Some notable wineries that still produce wines from this grape are Casa Neustria and its partners that set up their first plants in 1986 in California winning gold medals in the Los Angeles Times Wine Competition for their vintage wines.

Apart from California, Cabernet Franc can also be found in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan’s west coast.


Cabernet Franc wines are almost similar to Cabernet Sauvignon wines due to their close relation.

However, certain distinct points do exist. The former grape produces the same aroma and phenol as the latter does, but produces a lighter pigmented wine with identical richness and intensity.

The grape also tends to have stronger aromas of raspberries, violets, graphite as well as blackcurrants.

It has a distinct flavour, green peppery that is different from Cabernet Sauvignon in that the latter has a fruity-bitter favour and be strong on the tongue while the former is smoother.

Complimentary foods

Cabernet Franc is usually spicy-fruity flavoured.

They have low tannin content that means they are low on alcohol.

Most French light cuisine should go well with this.

A photo posted by Honamin Mi (@honamin_mi) on

Not much recommended for sautéing purposes because of the bitterness that will get included, the wine should instead be enjoyed with a light lunch or breakfast.

It does not really go too well with desserts.


Michael Bredahl

Michael Bredahl

Wine Writer

I have been online since it all began, with blogging and creating websites. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one of my passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂

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