International Cabernet Franc Day is the last international wine day for the year. In this article, you can find out everything you need to know about the cabernet franc grape, the wines, the history, where it’s grown and even get some recommendations directly from French wine importers who import and sell cabernet franc.
What is Cabernet franc?
One of the main black grape varieties (and it’s one of 20 most planted grapes worldwide), it is most often blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot for Bordeaux style wines but can be found as a wine in its own right such as the Chinon from France’s Loire Valley.
Canada and the United States also sometimes make ice wine from cabernet franc.
DNA analysis of the cabernet franc grape shows that it is one of two parents of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and Carménère.
What does it taste like?
Cabernet Franc tends to have a more pronounced perfume with notes of raspberries, blackcurrants, violets and graphite. It is often characterized by a green, vegetal strike that can range from leaves to green bell peppers.
It has slightly less tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon and tends to produce a wine with a smoother mouthfeel.
New World examples of Cabernet Franc tend to emphasize the fruit more and may delay harvesting the grapes to try to minimize the green leafy notes.
Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.
How it compares…
Cabernet franc grapes produce a wine which is lighter than cabernet sauvignon with the wine being a bright yet pale red wine. Cabernet franc ripens a few weeks earlier than cabernet sauvignon.
Bordeaux’s records show cabernet franc plantings at the end of the 18th century but cabernet franc was planted in the Loire Valley long before then.
Where in the world…?
Apart from being found in France and Italy and other parts of Europe, cabernet franc is also found in new world wine countries including Kazakhstan (a region one doesn’t often think of for wine).
Within France, cabernet franc is predominantly found within the Loire Valley (In the Loire Valley, Cabernet is widely planted in the Anjou, Bourgueil, Chinon, and Saumur-Champigny regions) and also in Libournais within Bordeaux.
In Bordeaux, the famous Chateau Cheval Blanc produces a blend, which is almost exclusively made of cabernet franc and merlot. In the early 20th century, plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were almost equal in Bordeaux with around 25,000 acres (10,000 ha) by the late 1960s. These were found along the right bank of the Gironde in the Fronsac, St-Emilion and Pomerol regions.
Significant plantings can also be found in the Bergerac and Madiran Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOCs).
Elsewhere in Europe…
Within Europe, cabernet franc is also found in the North-East of Italy, particularly near Friuli but also as far South as Apulia where it is used in Chianti blends. It is also found within the Villány and Szekszárd regions of Hungary with smaller plantings are found in Eger, and in South Balaton and Sopron vineyards.Cabernet franc is also found in Greece (where it is known as tsapournakos), Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia and in Catalonia in Spain.
New World countries…
Cabernet Franc is also found in Canada where it is used in blends but also as a single varietal and as an ice wine.
The USA has also taken an interest in cabernet franc, particularly in the Califofnian wine region but also as far afield as New York, Colorado, Southern Illionois, Pennsyvania, Ohio, Michigan;s west coast, among others.
Argentina has produced high scoring Cabernet franc wines.
Having come to Australia as part of Janes Busby’s 1832 collection, cabernet franc is found in a variety of different climates, such as North-Eastern Victoria, McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills and the Clare Valley.
You might also know cabernet franc by another name
However, cabernet franc is not the same as….
Varieties commonly mistaken for Cabernet franc: Ardonnet (Béarn, no longer cultivated), Arrouya (Pyrénées), Béquignol noir (Dissay in the Vienne), Cabernet sauvignon, Carmenère , Gros Cabernet (Médoc, no longer cultivated), Hondarribi Beltza (País Vasco in Spain).
Recommended cabernet francs for International Cabernet Franc Day
Some French wine importers have been kind enough to share their picks for International Cabernet Franc Day. To mix things up, these are in order of the name of the cabernet franc selected.
Thomas Gisbert from Mosaïque Wines recommends the Chai Saint Etienne Rouge Tradition Coteaux du Quercy 2016 for International Cabernet Franc Day.
Why? Produced on our family estate in the South West of France near Cahors, our Cabernet Franc expresses itself with generosity and balance, blended with a little bit of Merlot and Malbec. A ‘Bordeaux blend’ with lots of personality that will make many happy, especially in a vintage with a bit of age. Finally, the icing on the cake: only $35 a bottle.
Pairings? In terms of matching, one can imagine meats grilled on the BBQ, a shoulder of lamb with prunes, a duck leg confit and beautiful seasonal vegetables.
France-Soir Wine Selections
Pierre Stock from France-Soir Wines recommends the 2018 Château Yvonne Saumur Champigny Cuvée La Folie for International Cabernet Franc Day.
This is such a perfect representation of the velvety and elegant Cabernet franc of the appellation, it is light and juicy , tannins are silky , with scent of beetroot and tomatoes
Match with Persian food , tabouli and a slightly spicy white meat grilled
Margot from Le Plonque talks cabernet franc for International Cabernet Franc Day.
Cabernet France is the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon and of Merlot. It’s a varietal that produces complex wines that are rich in aromas of red fruit (raspberry and strawberry)
We at Le Plonque love cabernet franc from the Loire region, where it is vinified on its own. Domaine de Clayou Cabernet Franc 2015 is a 100% Cabernet Franc, it is light and easy to drink (it will seduce Pinot Noir lovers) and very fruity. It has the typical notes of Cabernet Franc mentioned earlier.
It goes well with white meats, strong cheeses and grilled red meats. It is perfect for a barbecue on a summer’s day as it is even better when cooled a little (serves between 15 and 18°C).
SPECIAL OFFER: It is currently on promotion on the Le Plonque website for $95.52 for 6 bottles with free delivery in time for Christmas.
Popsy & JJ
Popsy of Popsy & JJ recommends a French fizz with a Cabernet Franc component for International Cabernet Franc Day.
We don’t have a wine that is exclusively cabernet franc as such, but we do have a gorgeous French fizz from Loire Valley with about a third of its grapes consisting of cabernet franc (fermented without the skins). It’s a gorgeous sparkling wine. We first sampled it on a day where we tasted literally about 120 bottles from Champagne. We think this one was better than at least 100 of those.
Which wine do you recommend? – This gorgeous French fizz of which a third of its fruit is comprised of cabernet franc (fermented without the skins) is a gem: Jaillance Cremant de Loire Brut NV.
Why? – We sampled this at the Champagne and sparkling wine shed at Vinexpo 2019, and scored this higher than over 100 French Champagnes we tasted on the same day. Made only the way the French can, in the traditional method, expert blending of over 20 crus, 2.5 years on lees, moderate dosage, and a 2nd ferment in the bottle. The result is super fine, creamy bead, hints of citrus, apple and brioche, and an elegance unrivalled by just about any house NV on the planet.
Who is this cabernet franc for? – This one is for fizz lovers who would like to sample some exquisite French fizz for a modest price.
Food pairing? Snapper ceviche, oysters natural or caviar
Airoldi Fine Wines
Daniel Airoldi gives us his recommendation for International Cabernet Franc Day
The Cabernet Franc by Penin which is a Bordeaux AC made by Patrick Carteyron ‘the genius of the Bordeaux Superieur appellation’.
Why? It is a single grape variety, which is rare in Bordeaux, and comes from an old parcel of vines that are over 90 years old. It is a very aromatic, floral and light wine that can be drunk on its own!
Who is Cabernet Franc for? For those who like light, fruity, aromatic wines with a bit of structure.
Pairing? Very good on a pork butcher’s plate, or grilled meats.
SPECIAL OFFER: Use the code “Marseillaise’ for 20% off all your orders at Airoldi Fine Wines.
European Wine Store
Jeremy from European Wine Store recommends the 2016 Sauvion Les Roches Cachees Chinon Cabernet Franc.
It comes from a truly great vintage in France, (2016) and is produced in Chinon, Loire Valley: France’s traditional home of Cabernet Franc. At $28.95 this is one of the best value Chinon Cabernet Francs available in Australia!
Wine writer Sean Mitchell sums it up perfectly in this review: “This wine is textbook Chinon from the Loire Valley. It has aromas of crisp red raspberries and strawberry, a medium body and a dry, high acid finish with a twist of tobacco. A fresh and enjoyable style that is ready to drink now.“ Sean Mitchell, Grapeobserver.com
In regards to a food pairing it goes beautifully with Roasted Salmon and Beets with Herb Vinaigrette!
Do you have a favourite Cabernet Franc?
Happy International Cabernet Franc Day!
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