Erin Doman on March 29, 2016 0 Comments Most people have heard of Cabernet Sauvignon, but Cabernet Franc is not a common wine found on most wine lists. It is a red wine with medium body and a mouthwatering taste. Although it can be found as a single varietal, it is more common as a popular grape used in Bordeaux blends. Its relationship with the Sauvignon Blanc grape resulted in the now popular Cabernet Sauvignon. When found as a single varietal, Cabernet Franc has a fresher and leaner style compared to the heavier Cabernet Sauvignon, and is often meant to be consumed earlier. History of Cabernet Franc This grape has been around for centuries, with talk of it in France’s Loire region dating back to the 12th century. Its claim to fame happened in the 1600s when Cardinal Richelieu chose it for the garden of Abbaye de St. Nicolas de Bourgeuil. The planting of the Cabernet Franc grape continued into Bordeaux in the 18th century, where it became known as a perfect blending grape. Over time it made its way into Europe and even into the New World. Growing Regions Although this wine got its start in France, it has become a popular varietal in regions all over the world. Both the Old and New Worlds have been known to produce high-quality Cabernet Francs and blends. In general the grape thrives in cooler climates and in sandy, chalky soils, although it can adapt to a variety of soil types. Here are some of the most common regions that Cabernet Franc is grown: France Loire Valley Bordeaux Languedoc-Roussillon Italy Tuscany Friuli-Venezia Giula Chile Cachapoal Valley Colchagua Valley United States: California Sierra Nevada Foothills North Coast United States: Washington Columbia Valley United States: New York Long Island- this has a climate most similar to Bordeaux, and, according to some experts, it may be the best North American region to produce the same style. Finger Lakes Hudson Valley Greater Niagara South Africa Stellenbosch Swartland Paarl Spain Aragon Catalania Castilla-La Mancha Hungary Eger Sopron Villany Kunsag Cabernet Franc Flavor Profile In general, the common flavors that describe Cabernet Franc are red plum, roasted pepper, strawberry, chili pepper, and crushed gravel. However, the taste profile can change depending on the region it comes from. In general, this grape tends to grow well in cooler areas, although many of the wine-producing regions have a warmer climate with some similarities to the elements of France. In the warmer weather regions, the fruit tends to be riper and has a more intense structure. France The largest producer of the wine is in the Loire Valley, France, which has more of a cool climate. The aromas of the wine are raspberry sauce, roasted red pepper, jalapeno, and wet gravel. Upon tasting the wine, many will describe the flavors as smoky tomato, sour cherry, sweet pepper, and dried oregano. Chile Colchagua Valley, Chile has recently begun to produce Cabernet Franc. It has a sunny and hot climate that is balanced by the Andes Mountains and Pacific Ocean. The result is an elegant wine with a ripe style. The aromas tend to be a bit more bold, and are often described as chocolate, black cherry, and green peppercorn. Flavors include baking spices, juicy berry fruit, and vanilla. Italy Tuscany is well known for its Italian wines, but it is also a large producer of Cabernet Franc. Compared to some Cabernet Francs from other regions, the ones from Italy are likely to be richer, bolder, and have higher alcohol contents. Initial aromas tend to be fairly rich, with tones of cocoa, black cherry, red pepper flakes, blackberry, and leather. The taste profile includes flavors of cinnamon, mocha, and plum. California Sierra Nevada may not be a well-known wine-producing region, but it is a producer of single-varietal Cabernet Francs. The warm-climate at the foothills of the mountains produces a fruit-forward wine that is easy to drink. Typical aromas are mint, sweet strawberries, roasted jalapeno, and raspberry. Flavors include baking spices, chocolate, and bold fruit. Food Pairings for Cabernet Franc As a medium-bodied wine with high acidity and medium tannins, this wine pairs nicely with a number of different foods. Rich and fatty foods, vinegar-based dishes, and tomato-based dishes are all good choices. Because of the herbal undertones of the grape, dishes with fresh herb accents tend to shine with this wine. The following are just some of the recommendations for food that pairs nicely with this wine. Cheese — Feta, goat cheese, fontina, Camembert, brie, blue, and spinach and cheese quiche. Meat — Beef stew, roast, or steak, turkey with cranberry, roasted pork, pasta with Bolognese, chicken marsala, veal, lamb, pork belly, roasted duck, roasted or grilled lamb, meatballs, venison, and wild game hens. Vegetables — Roasted red pepper, tomatoes stuffed with basil, roasted or grilled eggplant, Brussels sprouts gratin, mushroom, spinach, leeks, arugula, sunchokes, a variety of beans, and any roasted vegetable. Spices and Herbs — Sage, thyme, chervil, oregano, rosemary, coriander, jalapeno pepper, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cabernet Franc as a Bordeaux Blending Grape Although it is possible to find this grape featured as a stand-alone wine, you will most likely find it as one of the grapes in the popular Bordeaux blend. In most cases, this red wine grape is blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to produce the signature taste. However, Malbec and Petit Verdot are sometimes used in smaller amounts. Each grape varietal adds its own characteristic to the Bordeaux blend. The balance of the acidities, tannins, and alcohol contents is what produces the popular wine that has been around for centuries. The specific characteristics of each wine will vary depending on which grape is the dominant one, which is usually determined by the region itself. If you are used to drinking Cabernet or Merlot, and are looking to expand your palate a bit, search out a bottle of Cabernet Franc. Its slightly lighter body is a nice change from the typical Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is a great addition to most dinner parties. If you are feeling especially adventurous, try a variety of bottles from different regions to compare the different flavors and complexities.