Cabernet Franc

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What is Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franch is one of the major black grape varieties in the world but tends to be overshadowed by other most famous red grapes. It is the parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère. In the Old World, it's primarily grown for the Bordeaux blend, where it's blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, it is mostly seen in Merlot-dominant blends from the right-blank. Cabernet Franc can also be enjoyed as a single-varietal wine, and a high-quality bottle of it can age up to 15 years. Cabernet Franch adds structure and complexity when blended with other reds. While it shares the same aroma as that of Cabernet Sauvignon, there are still some noticeable differences. A Cabernet Franc wine can be more lightly pigmented and has a more pronounced perfume with notes of blackcurrants, violets, graphite, and raspberries. When compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc ripens a week before and can ripen fully in slightly cooler climates. It is also often grown as an "insurance" grape as it can produce good yields when managed right. This wine is famous for developing full-flavoured red wines around the world.

What is Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franch is one of the major black grape varieties in the world but tends to be overshadowed by other most famous red grapes. It is the parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère. In the Old World, it's primarily grown for the Bordeaux blend, where it's blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, it is mostly seen in Merlot-dominant blends from the right-blank. Cabernet Franc can also be enjoyed as a single-varietal wine, and a high-quality bottle of it can age up to 15 years. Cabernet Franch adds structure and complexity when blended with other reds. While it shares the same aroma as that of Cabernet Sauvignon, there are still some noticeable differences. A Cabernet Franc wine can be more lightly pigmented and has a more pronounced perfume with notes of blackcurrants, violets, graphite, and raspberries. When compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc ripens a week before and can ripen fully in slightly cooler climates. It is also often grown as an "insurance" grape as it can produce good yields when managed right. This wine is famous for developing full-flavoured red wines around the world.

History of Cabernet Franc

It is believed that Cabernet Franch first started in the Libournais region sometime in the 17th century when the cutting of its vine was transported to Loire Valley. The rise of popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon in the 18th and 19th centuries has contributed to different observations and theories on the similarities between the grape and Cabernet Franc. In 1997, DNA evidence showed that Cabernet Franc crossbred with Sauvignon Blanc to produce Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Cabernet Franch grapes are one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world. It is predominantly found in the Loire Valley and the Libournais region in France. One of the best reds from this region are ones produced by Château Cheval Blanc, whose 2021 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 1er Grand Cru Classé A has a high mixture and good proportion of Cabernet Franc, providing a firm structure with freshness. In the New World, Cabernet Franc is produced in Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and South Africa. The examples of the wine in this region tend to exude the fruit more, and winemakers may delay harvesting the grapes to minimize the green leafy notes. Australia grows Cabernet Franc in cool, cool to warm and warm climates such as McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, and Clare Valley. Meanwhile, Cabernet Franc grapes have become the favourite among South Africa's boutique wineries, slowly increasing in total vineyards by the mid-2000s. Cabernet Franc plays a significant role in South African winemaking as the 14th most planted wine grape variety in the country and among the best wines in the current wine market. While it has lower total vineyards as compared to other South African red wines, single-varietal Cabernet Francs are produced in the country. Cabernet Franc thrives in Stellenbosh due to its soils rich in limestone and chalk.

Cabernet Franc Taste Profile

The varietal Cabernet Franc wines' taste can be attributed to the climate where it was grown. It can exude tart red fruit flavours in cooler climates, and fuller-bodied and dried fruit flavours when grown in warmer areas. In moderate climates, the wine can achieve a mix of savoury, tarty, and herbal flavours. The wines made from Cabernet Franc tend to smell herbal and like green bell pepper, and sometimes like red fruits and pencil lead. If grown in cooler climates, there can be violet notes while warmer climates present cayenne pepper notes. Cabernet Franc tastes differ from the temperature it's served. When served in a cool glass, its taste is more herbal and bell paper, while a less cool glass will present more wild strawberries, plums, and berries. If the wine has been aged in new oak, hints of chocolate and sweet spices may also be present.

Food Pairings

Due to its variety of styles and high acidity, Cabernet Franc can be paired with a lot of dishes. It is considered the most food-friendly among the wines. The lighter-bodied Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley can be paired with eggplant parmigiana and tomato-based dishes. Since the wine has herbal notes, you can also try it with herb-crusted meat or any dishes flavoured with herbs. For cheese, you can pair it with goat's cheese and young pecorino. Meanwhile, fuller-bodied styles from Bordeaux and Italy are best paired with roasted meats. Rather than chicken, you can also try Cabernet Franc with duck and light offal dishes. Cabernet Franc from countries like South Africa is best paired with red meat such as steak, or with barbecue, spicy sausages, chorizo, or kebabs.

How is Cabernet Franc best served?

Cabernet Franc is best served between 60–68°F / 15-20°C, which will allow the aroma to open and keep it cool to prevent the higher alcohol content from interfering with the fragrance. If it's served cooler, it will hinder the delicate fragrance and flavours, while if served warmer, it will be more fruity and less dry. It's recommended to decant Cabernet Franc for 30 minutes to help tone down its natural spice, making it softer and richer. You can use a universal wine glass or a standard wine glass to ensure that enough air goes to the wine. Cabernet Franc can be very savoury with age, and lighter styles can be improved when aged for 2-5 years. Full-bodied ones can be aged for 5-10 years or longer. Bottles that have spent more time in oak barrels can age longer than others and a good Cabernet Franc can age even for decades. Despite its long history, South Africa's high-quality wines are considered part of the New World with winemakers only starting to discover what the country offers. Message In A Bottle has a wide list of South African wines to get you started with your journey of tasting more from South Africa's rich winemaking history.