Cabernet Franc

All you need to know about Cabernet Franc: A quick guide

Cabernet Franc is a red wine variety with a lot of power as well as elegance! The grape originated in Southwest France, with clippings eventually brought to The Loire Valley, where you will find some of the best!

A few more notes on Cabernet Franc:

  • It is a parent grape to many red varieties, the most popular being Cabernet Sauvignon (with Sauvignon Blanc), although it is lighter in style, a little more perfumed, and slightly more vegetal/earthy in flavor!
  • It is one of the 6 major varieties allowed in Bordeaux blends.
  • It can grow in warm and cool climates, in fact, it makes some really great Ice Wine! 

The following guide will illustrate what Cabernet Franc tastes like (aroma, flavor, and structure). It will also tell you where it’s from, provide you with common food recommendations, similar varieties, and let you know why you should be drinking more of it!

How would I describe Cabernet Franc?

Rustic

Cabernet Franc has a good amount of red fruit, but is also known for its “green” and earthy flavors! It has a deliciously rustic vibe to it!  

Savory

Cabernet Franc can give you spice, herbs, green peppers, and even olives. It has a good balance of fruit and earth, but can fall into the savory category depending on where it is grown! 

Perfumed

Cabernet Franc has very vibrant aromas. These include floral and vegetal notes.

What does Cabernet Franc taste like?

Cabernet Franc Tastes

These are the most familiar tastes and aromas I typically find in a glass of Cabernet Franc. It’s also common to find strawberry, cranberry, currant, violets, olives, tobacco, graphite, dirt, leather, and earth depending upon where the wine is from, and how it is made.

Remember, wine tastes are somewhat relative. There may be some different tasting notes you consistently find while drinking Cabernet Franc.  

What about structure?

Medium Body

Think of that weight as a liquid scale, from water (light body) to heavy cream (full body) in your mouth. Cabernet Franc can range from light to full depending on its classification, but is generally medium bodied.

Body of wine

Medium Plus Acid

You can judge acidity based on whether your mouth waters after you take a sip of something. The more you salivate, the higher the acid. Cabernet Franc has a good amount of acid, but it’s not overpowering! 

acid in wine

Medium Alcohol

You can feel alcohol ‘burn’ the back of your throat when you take a sip. Cabernet Franc has quite a range for alcohol depending on where/how it’s made. It can be high but generally falls in the medium category. 

alcohol in wine

Medium Tannin

Tannin contributes to the dryness of a wine. It comes from the skin of the grapes during the winemaking process. You can tell a wine has high tannin if it dries out your tongue. It imparts almost a bitter flavor. Cabernet Franc usually has smooth tannins but they can range from medium to medium plus!

tannin in wine

Where is Cabernet Franc from?

French Wine

France

Primarily in: Bordeaux (right bank) and The Loire Valley

Cabernet Franc originated in France. You will find it mostly in Bordeaux and The Loire Valley.

BORDEAUX: Cabernet Franc is a very important blending grape in Bordeaux blends. It is blended with Merlot in the right bank. These wines will be plump and fruity, but also have a rustic and elegant complexity to them from Cabernet Franc.

THE LOIRE VALLEY: Cabernet Franc is the most popular red varietal in the Loire Valley. The best examples are in Touraine, in the subregions of Chinon and Bourgueil.  Chinon will be light and elegant, with flavors of raspberry and bell pepper, and good acidity. Bourgueil wines (this is where Cabernet Franc was first planted) are a little more dark, heavy, and powerful for this varietal. Both are juicy and great food pairing wines!

You can also find wonderful Cabernet Franc from The USA (California, Washington, Finger Lakes), Argentina, Italy, Spain, Canada, and Hungary.

What food should I pair with Cabernet Franc?

Goat cheese and wine

Goat Cheese

Why?

Good acidity, medium body, and savory flavors lead to a perfect pairing with this creamy cheese. This is actually a classic pairing in the Loire region! 

Lamb and wine

Lamb

Why?

Lamb and Cabernet Franc is always a good idea. Gamey meats and earthy wines complement each other well. Adding herbs and spices to the meat can make the pairing even better! 

Olives and wine

Olives

Why?

Cabernet Franc is a savory wine (especially French styles). Olives can be tough to pair, but Cabernet Franc has just enough acidity and fruitiness to tame the saltiness of the olives! 

Other Pairings: Peppers, Mushrooms, Meatballs, Burgers, Beef Stew, Feta, Herbs, Lentils, Quiche 

What other similar varieties would I enjoy?

(common confusions)

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon has:

  • more tannin
  • more oak influence (vanilla/spices)
  • more alcohol/body (generally)
Tempranillo

Tempranillo has:

  • less vegetal flavors (pyrazines)
  • more American Oak (dill/coconut flavors)
  • more body (generally)
Tempranillo

Carmenere has:

  • more red fruit
  • more oak influence (generally)
  • more spice (can be an oak quality)

A Certified Sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine with a passion for everything wine + beverage!