studies in ampelography, using the relatively new application
of DNA fingerprinting, have determined that cabernet franc
is one of the genetic parents of cabernet sauvignon (the other
is sauvignon blanc). Cabernet franc was also found to be the common ancestor among
many other grapes of Bordeaux, including carmenère, malbec, and merlot.
The differences between franc
and sauvignon become apparent when grown and fermented
in close proximity. Cabernet franc vines bear
thinner-skinned, earlier-ripening grapes with lower overall
acidity, when compared to cabernet sauvignon. Yields are similar,
although cabernet franc normally buds and ripens somewhat
vineyards in climates where rain is a harvest-time threat
often plant this grape, in place of or in addition to cabernet
sauvignon. Cabernet franc vines survive cold winters better
than cabernet sauvignon, but are more susceptible to being
damaged by Spring frosts. Overall, c franc prefers slightly cooler weather than c. sauvignon, within the range of 59° to 66° F, seasonally averaged.
France has by
far the most cabernet franc plantings of any
wine producing nation with over 35,000 acres.
There are significant plantings of cabernet
franc in St. Emilion (two-thirds of the blend at Ch. Cheval Blanc), the Loire Valley (where it
is known as breton and used to produce both red and rosé wines), and south west
France (aka bouchy).
There are cabernet franc vineyards in Spain's Penedes, in Romania, Hungary, the Balkans, and the Friuli region of north eastern Italy (aka cabernet frank). New plantings in the 1990s in Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina show promise. In the United States, cabernet franc is planted in Long Island, New York, and in Washington state. Although first brought to the state in 1872, the grape was little-used in California until several acres were planted in Napa Valley in the mid-1960s. California now has about 2,000 acres, mostly planted since 1980 and over half that total in Napa and Sonoma.
great deal on vineyard practices, the flavor
profile of Cabernet Franc may be both fruitier
and sometimes more herbal or vegetative than
Cabernet Sauvignon, although lighter in both
color and softer in tannins. Over-cropping and
underexposure each tend to accentuate the
vegetative flavor elements1. More aromatic than most Cabernet Sauvignon, typically somewhat
spicy and often reminiscent of plums
and especially violets, Cabernet Franc is more
often used as a secondary or tertiary element in
varietally-blended red wines, such as Bordeaux
or Meritage, although several producers in France, especially the Loire Valley AC's of Chinon and Saumur, as well as several in the United States and the Friuli region of Italy, along with a few in other countries consistently release stand-alone bottlings.
Cabernet Franc Smell and/or Flavor
depends upon individual tasting ability and experience
and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions,
as well as viticultural and enological techniques.
This list therefore is
merely suggestive and neither comprehensive nor exclusive.
black currant, raspberry, plum
(light): vanilla, coconut, sweet
(heavy): oak, smoke, toast,
SPICY: black licorice
|VEGETAL: tobacco, asparagus, bell pepper, gooseberry (methoxy-pyrazine)
AGE: musk, mushroom, earth, cedar,
(see our latest Tasting
Notes [PDF] )
1. The compound responsible for "vegetative" smells and flavors is methoxy-pyrazine, and is shared by all of the red Bordeaux varieties to some degree, as well as sauvignon blanc, in their DNA. RETURN
1. Jancis Robinson (ed), Oxford
Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, (Oxford University Press: London) 2006
2. L. Peter Christensen, Nick K. Dokoozlian, M. Andrew Walker, James A Wolpert, et all. Wine Grape Varieties in California (University of California, Agricultural and Natural Resources Publications: Oakland) 2003
3. Benjamin Lewin, Wine Myths and Reality, (Vendage Press: Dover, DE) 2010
4. Julia Harding, Jancis Robinson and José Vouillamoz. Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours. London: Allen Lane/Penguin and New York: Ecco/Harper-Collins, 2012
5. Steven Spurrier & Michel Dovaz, Academie du Vin, Complete Wine Course (G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York) 1983
6. Charles Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present (University of California Press: Berkeley) 1998
7. Jancis Robinson (ed), Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, (Oxford University Press: New York) 1996