general, Cabernet Franc is very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon,
but buds and ripens at least a week earlier. This trait
allows the vine to thrive in slightly cooler climates
than Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Loire Valley. In
Bordeaux, plantings of Cabernet Franc are treated as an
"insurance policy" against inclement weather close to
harvest that may damage plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Its early budding does pose the viticultural hazard of
coulure early in the growing season.
The vine is vigorous and upright, with dark-green, 5-lobed
leaves. The winged bunches are elongate and small-medium
in size. The berries are quite small and blue-black in
color, with fairly thin skins. The Cabernet Franc
grapevine is more prone to mutation than Cabernet Sauvignon,
less so than Pinot noir.
Franc can adapt to a wide variety of vineyard soil types
but seems to thrive in sandy, chalk soils, producing heavier,
more full bodied wines there. In the Loire Valley, terroir
based differences can be perceived between wines made
from grapes grown in gravel terraces versus tuffeau slopes.
The grape is highly yield sensitive, with over-cropping
producing wines with more green, vegetal notes.
Cabernet Franc is one of the twenty most widely planted
grape varieties. Plantings are found throughout Europe,
in the New World, even China and Kazakhstan. In many regions,
it is planted as a component of a Bordeaux-style blend
such as Meritage, playing secondary role to Cabernet Sauvignon
and Merlot. In parts of northeast Italy, Anjou-Saumur,
Touraine and right bank region of Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc
both plays a more prominent role in blends and is vinted
as a varietal.
France, Cabernet Franc is found predominately in the Loire
Valley and in the Libournais region of Bordeaux. As of
2000, it was the sixth most widely planted red grape variety
in the country. Other areas with significant plantings
include the Bergerac and Madiran Appellation d'origine
controle(AOCs). By the early 20th century, there were
nearly equal plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet
Franc in Bordeaux with around 25,000 acres (10,000 hectares)
by the late 1960s. Most of these plantings were along
the right bank of the Gironde in the Fronsac, St-Emilion
and Pomerol regions. Towards the end of the century, even
though plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon had skyrocketed
in Bordeaux to a 2 to 1 ratio in proportion to Cabernet
Franc plantings there were over 35,360 acres (14,300 ha)
of the latter,nearly half of the country's total 88,900
acres (36,000 ha).
the Loire Valley, Cabernet is widely planted in the Anjou,
Bourgueil, Chinon, and Saumur-Champigny regions.
2000 there were over 17,300 acres (7000 ha) of Cabernet
Franc in Italy. However, the grape variety is commonly
confused with both Cabernet Sauvignon and the ancient
Bordeaux grape Carmenere so the true acreage may not be
known till more vineyards have been surveyed by ampelographers.
It is mostly planted in the far northeast of Italy, particularly
in Friuli, but it is also found in the wines of the Veneto
(where is known as Bordo), as part of some Chianti
blends, even as far south as Puglia. Plantings of Cabernet
Franc in Tuscany have been increasing in recent years,
particularly in the Bolgheri and Maremma region where
the grape is prized for the balance and elegance that
it brings to blends. Italians wines often labeled simply
as "Cabernet" tend to be primarily Cabernet Franc or a
blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Franc in Hungary has gained attention in the end of 90s
when in some wine producing regions climate and growing
conditions proved to be not optimal for Cabernet Sauvignon
to reach its full ripeness. Successful varietal examples
from Villany show great potential, some international
experts declared that Cabernet Franc "found its new home
in Villany region". Hungarian varietal Cabernet Franc
is typically full-bodied, moderately or highly tannic
wine with rich aromas of spices, blue flowers and red/black
berry fruits with a reasonably good aging potential of
10 years or so. These wines typically undergo 12-18 months
of aging in new Hungarian oak barrels.
of France and Italy, sizable plantings of Cabernet Franc
is found in Spain, Slovenia and Kosovo.
This variety of grape is not very common in Spain and
is to be found mainly in Catalonia, where it is an authorized
variety in four Denominaciones de Origen: Catalunya
(DO), Conca de BarberÃ (DO), Penedes and Terra Alta (DO).
Franc is becoming more popular in Canada, being planted
in Ontario's Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County,
the north shore of Lake Erie, Pelee Island, and the Okanagan
Valley in British Columbia. While it is most often used
in blends, it is gaining some popularity as a single varietal
and as icewine. Ripening
about two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, it often
does better in Canada's cooler climate than other red
wine grape varieties. Ontario Cabernet Franc's often add
a characteristic vegetal, raspberry like flavor to a wine
with moderate acidity.
in the grape started with California wine makers, who
wanted to replicate the Bordeaux blend (now marketed as
Meritage). In the early to mid 20th century, some plantings
of Cabernet Franc were mistaken for Merlot. In the 1980s,
heightened interest in Cabernet Franc lead to an increase
in plantings that helped push the total acreage of Cabernet
Franc in California to 3400 acres (1375 ha), most of which
is in Napa and Sonoma counties.
In 1986, Casa Nuestra Winery in Napa Valley initiated
the first Cabernet Franc program in the United States,
winning a Double Gold and Best of Class Medal in the Los
Angeles Times Wine Competition for their first vintage.
The program continues today. More recently the grape has
caught the attention of growers in cooler areas such as
Long Island and the Finger Lakes of New York, The Grand
Valley AVA of Colorado, the Shawnee Hills AVA of southern
Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan's west coast, Washington
state and in the Monticello wine region in the Virginia
Piedmont as well as the Roanoke metropolitan area and
Rocky Knob AVA areas of Southwestern Virginia. Michigan
State University conducts research on Cabernet Franc at
their agricultural research center in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
In the Great Lakes Region and Virginia, Cabernet Franc
is valued for its ability to ripen more reliably than
other red Vitis vinifera and to produces wine better
quality than most hybrid grapes.
Washington State, the first plantings of Cabernet Franc
were cultivated in experimental blocks by Washington State
University in the Columbia Valley during the 1970s. In
1985, Cabernet Franc was planted in the Red Willow Vineyard
for use in Bordeaux style blends. The first varietal Cabernet
Franc in Washington was released in 1991 by Columbia Winery
followed by Chateau Ste Michelle in 1992 with grapes planted
from their Cold Creek Vineyard. In the 1990s, Chinook
Winery introduced the state's first Cabernet Franc rosÃ©.
Today it is the fourth most widely planted grape in the
state behind Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Syrah. Washington
Cabernet Franc is distinctive for its fruit forward style
with blueberry and raspberry fruit. The characteristics
vegetal notes is toned down in Washington with the wines
tending to show more notes of ground coffee and olives.
New World regions
the New World, Cabernet is used predominately as a blending
component and is found in scant amounts in Australia,
South Africa, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand.
As with so many grapes, Cabernet Franc came to Australia
in James Busbyâ€™s collection of 1832. It predominantly
grows in cool, cool to warm and warm climates such as
North-Eastern Victoria, McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills
and the Clare Valley.
In New Zealand, many winemakers have found that the cool
climate of their terroir contributes to Cabernet
Franc-like flavors in their Cabernet Sauvignon and plantings
of true Cabernet Franc have remained limited with only
around 519 acres (210 ha) planted as of 2006. In South
Africa, Cabernet Franc has become a favorite of some of
the country's boutique wineries and acreage has
slowly been increasing to nearly 2470 acres (1000 ha)
by the mid 2000s. In Chile there were around 2285 acres
(925 ha) planted by the early 21st century. As of 2003,
Argentina had around 741 acres (300 ha) planted around
the Mendoza region.
Franc shares many of the same phenolic and aroma compounds
as Cabernet Sauvignon but with some noticeable differences.
Cabernet Franc tends to be more lightly pigmented and
produces wines with the same level of intensity and richness.
Cabernet Franc tends to have a more pronounced perfume
with notes of raspberries, black currants, 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
and minimize the green leafy notes.
Science of Wine Aroma
the Acids in Wine
(Tannins) in Wine
The Basic Wine Pairing
Science of Food and
a Wine Sommelier