Cabernet franc is a grape, and a wine varietal which is largely overshadowed by its more well known cousin, or should I say son?, Cabernet Sauvignon. However Cabernet Franc is widespread in the cooler regions of Europe, and can be found growing in most wine producing countries.
Cabernet Franc is most often used as a blending partner, and is probably most famous for its use in the ”Bordeaux blends”. These wines are made from blends of Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet franc varieties, often with one or more of the less common Bordeaux varieties Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere.
Cabernet Franc, although not widely utilised as such, is a varietal in its own right. The wines produced using these grapes tend to be lighter than say a Cabernet Sauvignon, but can make for some interesting drinking. This grape has recently gained some popularity for use in the production of Ice wines, particularly in Canada and the USA.
Cabernet Franc is believed to have been first established in the Loire Valley in France in the 17th. By the 18th century, plantings of Cabernet Franc could be found throughout, St-Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac, where they were being used to make quality wines. As Cabernet Sauvignon became more popular in the 18th & 19th century, the similarities between the two grapes was observed and theories soon emerged as to the extent of the relationship. In 1997 using DNA tests, scientists were able to show that Cabernet Franc, at some point, crossed with Sauvignon blanc to produce the Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety.
Cabernet Franc is extensively found throughout the world. In fact it is in the top 20 grape varieties planted worldwide. Large amounts are grown throughout Europe, particularly in Italy (17300 acres) and France(35360 acres where it is extensively found in the Loire Valley and the Libournais region of Bordeaux where it is used in Bordeaux style wines. It can also be found in the United States, Canada,Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile Argentina, and China.
Wines made with this grape often possess pronounced perfumes of black currents, violets, raspberries and graphite. Some can display a strong vegetable aroma with scents of leather, tobacco and bell peppers. Older style Cabernet Franc wines can tend to be dry, very short wines, which may deliver a short burst of fruit flavor before quickly fading into a mellow saltly dryness. “New world” style Cab Franc's, while still dry seem to have more length on the back end, and seem to pack bigger fruit flavors. This wine goes very well with chicken or other light white meats.