December 4th is global Cabernet Franc Day. It’s an annual event celebrating the brilliance and uniqueness of the Cabernet Franc red wine grape variety. Cabernet Franc is a returning rising star of the wine world. Here is a quick introduction to the who, why, what and where of Cab Franc as it celebrates its birthday!
Who is Cabernet Franc?
Cabernet Franc - aka Cab Franc – is one of the world’s finest and old grape varieties. Originating from the Basque region in northern Spain on the border with France many centuries back, its heartland migrated north to the Bordeaux wine region and then subsequently onto the Loire Valley to establish a second major homeland. Cabernet Franc’s Birthday is celebrated on the birth date of Cardinal Richelieu, who took the first vine cuttings north from Bordeaux to the Loire Valley.
Who are the kids?
You mean Cab Franc has a family? Oh yes! In fact, a couple of its children have become very famous and more well-known than their parent. DNA testing has confirmed that Cabernet Franc is the mother (or father?) to both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – the world’s top two red wine grape varieties.
But there is more… Cab Franc is also a parent to Carménère, another less well-known Bordeaux grape now found more often in Chile. And there are still more children whose names are barely known today.
Cab Franc had a great time and set up a very noble ancestry.
Why Cabernet Franc?
Cabernet Franc has long been overshadowed by the bigger and more popular varieties of the last few years. As less heavy style wines return to favour, Cabernet Franc is already making a very strong comeback. Packed with fruit, taste, flavour and freshness when young and excellent if drunk together with food, Cab Franc will be an increasingly popular wine grape in the fruit-forward lighter wine styles of the future.
Cabernet Franc is in the top twenty of world grape varieties – ranked number 17 (and rising) in the University of Adelaide Wine Economics Research Centre’s survey carried out in 2010. France is the leading producer with up to 65% of world plantings in that one country alone with the Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions competing for the number one spot. Italy is the second largest producer followed by a number of other countries including Hungary and the USA.
In the vineyard
In the Bordeaux vineyards Cabernet Franc breaks bud later than Merlot but before Cabernet Sauvignon. It similarly harvests in between the two and although it has a lower yield, it has better disease resistance plus good reliability. It is frequently the unspoken unrecognised success factor in the famous Bordeaux blends, where there are less than ten full varietal Cabernet Franc wines produced.
Depending on its growing location, Cabernet Franc is generally a medium to heavy bodied red wine renowned for its perfumed aroma often resembling red cherries or blackcurrants when young. The heart of the wine taste is normally soft with plenty of rich complexity when matured in oak barrels all leading to a magnificent ending and length that lasts for a long time, frequently leaving a nice light spicy fruit zing in the mouth.
These characteristics make Cab Franc an excellent aperitif or food partner. Serve with all sorts of hors d’oeuvres and tasty appetisers. It will make a great talking point for the function and leave your palate clean and fresh for heavier things to come later.
Cabernet Franc is a very food friendly wine. Cabernet Franc pairs beautifully with stronger seafood dishes, roast or grilled meats as well as most vegan dishes. It is a wonderful red wine with a Thanksgiving or Christmas roast turkey. Try it also with mildly spicy and chilli dishes – it is a surprisingly good but unrecognised wine partner.
Cabernet Franc Day origins
Cabernet Franc Day was founded by Dracaena Wines, leading passionate Cabernet Franc winemakers in the Paso Robles wine region of California in order to showcase the star qualities of this grape variety.