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What is Cabernet Franc?

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If you’re after a lighter, fresher red wine, look no further than the parent grape of a more famous variety.

Have you ever tried the other Cabernet? "There’s another one?" I hear you ask? There is, and it has a very special relationship with Cabernet Sauvignon.


Cabernet Franc In France

The spiritual homes of Cabernet Franc are the regions of Bordeaux in the south west and the inland area of the Loire Valley. While these regions make some of the highest quality Cabernet Franc in the world, the styles are quite different.

The more expensive, and you could argue more famous (in terms of historical fame), are the Cabernet Franc wines from Bordeaux. There it’s usually blended with other reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. On the right bank is where it shines and features heavily in the blend of wines from regions such as Pomerol and Saint-Émilion.

The Bordeaux style of Cabernet Franc highlights the grape’s natural tannins and the wines can look like lighter bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.

While in the Loire, the wines highlight the grape’s natural acidity, and in regions such as Chinon and Saumur, the style is lighter and full of fruit and spice.


Did you know

Cabernet Franc is a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. The other parent grape is Sauvignon Blanc. A natural crossing of the two brings us the grape many see as the grandest of them all (Cabernet Sauvignon).


Cabernet Franc In Australia

While Cabernet Franc in Australia has historically been used in blends, with the move towards lighter, fresher style red wines, you may have started to see more straight examples.

The styles made in Australia mirror what you can find in France. There are bigger muscular wines that showcase the tannins, a la Bordeaux, as well as fresh, lighter bodied styles that mirror those from the Loire Valley.

Cabernet Franc prefers a cooler climate, however, it makes sense that it thrives in regions that do Cabernet Sauvignon well. Look out for examples from Coonawarra, Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Orange and Margaret River.


Cabernet Franc Characters

Cabernet Franc can be confused for being a lighter version of Cabernet Sauvignon as it shares many of the same characters.

Wines can show a range of currant notes from dark black to crunchy redcurrant. It is revered for having a herbaceous edge and this can come across as tobacco leaf, bay leaf or black tea.

It has lower tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon and some of the fresher styles can show the spice and aromatics (Campari/red liquorice) of winemaking techniques like carbonic maceration and whole bunch fermentation.


Cabernet Franc Food Pairings 

The bigger wines have a synergy with lamb and beef dishes and even roasted eggplant dishes. The lighter, fresher styles pair with a wide range of dishes from rabbit and duck, to tuna and salmon and many semi hard cheeses.

Words by
Adam Walls
Photography by
Kate Murray
Published on
28 May 2020


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