Cabernet Franc often lives in the shadow of its younger and more assertive sibling, Cabernet Sauvignon. Although reluctant to rely on gender stereotyping of grape varietals or their particular characteristics, a compelling case can be made for describing Cabernet Franc as the feminine side of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc, whose origin appears to be the Pyrenees Mountains in southwest France, is one of Bordeaux’s oldest and most prestigious grape varietals. It predates Cabernet Sauvignon by many centuries and recent DNA testing has determined that Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc constitute the actual forebears of Cabernet Sauvignon and not the other way around as once thought.
In its spiritual home, Cabernet Franc figures prominently in both Left and Right Bank Bordeaux wines, with the most esteemed Right Bank appellations of Pomerol and St. Émilion relying more heavily on Cabernet Franc’s propensity to ripen earlier than its more famous offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc also flourishes in France’s Loire Valley, most notably in the appellations of Bourgeuil and Chinon, where it produces elegant, sophisticated red wines. Add Cabernet Franc’s hauntingly beautiful fragrance, enticing berry, currant and leafy flavors, along with rounder, more accessible tannins than its progeny, Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is easy to see why Cabernet Franc is uniformly esteemed in France and increasingly sought after by New World wineries. The most notable Cabernet Francs outside of France emanate from Argentina, California, and Chile where they are bottled as premium varietals and play key supporting roles in Meritage selections