The cabernet franc grape, along with sauvignon blanc, is the parent grape to the popular wine grape cabernet sauvignon. Cabernet franc is a delightful plum colored red wine often distinguished as being “lighter” (in both color and tannins) and “fruiter” than its sauvignon cousin. Other names for cabernet franc include:
- cabernet blanc
- cabernet franco
- capbreton rouge
- kaberne frank
- noir dur.
Description of Cabernet Franc
On the vine, the cabernet franc grape looks very similar to a cabernet sauvignon grape, with large clusters of grapes in bold blue and black hues. During the growing process, foliage management of the vine is an important aspect of growing this particular grape. If the climate is exceptionally cool, the vines will produce more foliage and perform less grape ripening. The grape is thinner-skinned than cabernet sauvignon and does well in cool regions.
The specific aromas present in cabernet franc are influenced both by the exact region and production style. Aromas identified in cabernet franc often include:
- bell pepper
Flavors in cabernet franc are similar to the wine”s aromas, and are both fruity (raspberry, cherry, plum and strawberry) and flora (violet).
Production of Cabernet Franc
Although it is frequently disparaged by critics (and hated by Paul Giamatti”s character in the movie Sideways), cabernet franc is a versatile wine. Two popular California cabernet franc varietals include:
- Ironstone cabernet franc: Noted for its extra smooth texture, this cabernet franc includes blackberry, vanilla and currant aromas. Ironstone Vineyards is located in the Sierra foothills in the heart of California gold rush country.
- Forest Glen cabernet franc: A rich wine with oak softened tannins, Forest Glen cabernet franc presents a delicate vanilla flavor. Forest Glen winery, located in Sonoma, California.
Cabernet Franc History
In the Bordeaux region of southwest France, there are records of cabernet franc plantings dating back to the 18th century.
France has more cabernet franc vineyards than any other region in the world. In Europe, the cabernet franc grape is also grown in:
- the Balkans.
In America, the cabernet franc grape is grown in several states, including Arizona, which produces the excellent Marcus cabernet franc. States growing the grape include:
- New York
- Washington State.
The grape is also increasingly being planted in Canada, including such locations as:
- Pelee Island (Lake Erie, Ontario)
- Prince Edward County (Ontario)
- the Niagara Peninsula (Ontario)
- the Okanagan Valley (British Columbia).
Cabernet franc is used in creating ice wine in Canada. Ice wine is a unique dessert wine made from grapes frozen on the vine. Ice wines are highly concentrated and generally quite expensive to produce.
Cabernet Franc Food Pairings
A favorite food pairing with cabernet franc is warm toasted walnuts, Anjou pears and blue cheese crumbles. When enjoying a serving of cabernet franc, resist the urge to swirl your glass. Cabernet franc is best enjoyed undisturbed. The unique bell pepper aroma of cabernet franc makes it idea for a variety of recipes, including:
- dishes with tomato sauce
- ham, pork and veal dishes
- Mediterranean fare
- poultry dishes
- red meats and heavy game.
This wine should ideally be served between 65 to 70 degrees. Servings on the warmer end of the spectrum may seem fruiter and less dry. After being opened, the flavor of the wine will change gradually over a period of a few days.
Unlike many other wines, cabernet franc can be enjoyed after dinner and before dessert. Cabernet franc is versatile and can be enjoyed young or aged for up to a decade. After long aging, it may develop a subtle fleshy aroma.