What is Cabernet Franc?
Cathie Schafer
/ Categories: Explore, Guide

What is Cabernet Franc?

Some of the best examples of Cabernet Franc are from Virginia

Cabernet Franc is a red wine, made from a grape of the same name. Aside from being a unique and delicious grape in its own right, it’s claim to fame is as that it is a parent of the much more well-known grape Cabernet Sauvignon. Apparently a happy accidental crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc in a French vineyard sometime in the 1700’s resulted in the ever-popular Cabernet Sauvignon. Interesting right?

Where did it originate?

Cabernet Franc’s origins begin in France, where the vast majority of Cabernet Franc is still grown today. Perhaps most well-known for its use in Bordeaux blends, it also is the sole varietal in a French wine called Chinon – named for the Chinon region in the Loire Valley in which it grows. It also grows in smaller quantities throughout the world’s wine growing regions, including the United States. North American Cabernet Franc grows everywhere from the Washington state to California and from Georgia to the Finger Lakes and Canada. If there seems to be one place in the U.S. where Cabernet Franc has become the belle of the ball, it would be Virginia! Virginia produces excellent and award-winning examples of Cabernet Franc and the number of vines planted in the state has vastly increased in the last couple of decades.

What does it taste like?

Depending on the region in which it’s grown, Cabernet Franc can range from being fruit forward to having noticeable herbaceous notes (tobacco, bell pepper, etc.). Common flavor notes of plum, violets and gravel can often be detected. Almost always there is a spice note that is often the identifying factor of Cabernet Franc. These spice notes can range from a white pepper to baking spices to black licorice.

Cabernet Franc has medium tannins and acid, making it a well-balanced wine that pairs well with a variety of foods. Literally almost anything can go with Cabernet Franc: beef roast, chicken, rustic pastas, veal, lamb, duck…roasted vegetables, beans and get this - Brussels sprouts! Cabernet Franc also pairs well with spicy foods (jalapeno, black pepper and red pepper flakes). Talk about versatile! If you would like to pair Cabernet Franc with a snack instead of meal, try goat cheese or blue cheese – delicious!

Award Winning Examples

Let’s look at some award-winning examples Virginia Cabernet Franc wines.

868 Estate Vineyards 2015 Reserve

This wine won a Gold Medal at the 2018 Virginia Governor’s Cup. Made with 100% estate grown fruit. It boasts aromas of blackberry, cherry, red currant, along with anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, juniper with intense notes of rose violet and vanilla. This wine is full-bodied on the palate with notes of cherry, clove, black pepper and chalk. The long finish leaves you with spice and pepper notes. The wine was aged 22 months in French oak. Only 74 cases were made. 12.7% ABV. I could not locate this wine for purchase, but you can purchase their 2015 non “Reserve” Cabernet Franc for $29.00 per bottle. Read more info about 868 Estate Vineyards here. 

AmRhein Wine Cellars 2015

AmRhein won a Silver Medal at the 2018 Virginia Governor’s Cup. Made with 100% estate grown fruit. Cherries on those, with raspberry jam and soft tannins on the palate, this wine finishes with cherries and hint of black pepper. It can be purchased for $22.95 a bottle. 

Fabbioli Cellars 2014 Reserve

Fabbioli scored a Bronze Medal in the 2018 Virginia Governor’s Cup. This wine is 84% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. Earthy dark red cherries on the nose, with hints of lavender and spice (pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon). Dark cherries continue on the palate, with cranberries, tobacco, cracked black pepper. Medium plus tannins. Aged for 18 months in Hungarian oak, only 97 cases of this wine were made. 13.7% ABV. This wine can be purchased for $35.00.  Read our profile of Fabbioli Cellars.

Jefferson Vineyards 2016

Also a Silver Medal winner, this wine has aromas of ripe cherry, spice and raspberry. Medium tannins and spicy, herbal finish. ABV 12.5%. $24.95 a bottle. Read more about Jefferson Vineyards.

How to serve it.

While Cabernet Franc can be enjoyed right away, decanting is commonly recommended. Cabernet Franc can be aged for several years, so buy a bottle to drink now and one to put in your cellar.

Virginia may be for Lovers, but it’s also for Cabernet Franc! I’m definitely going to be making Virginia Cabernet Franc part of my immediate wine future. Cheers!


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Cathie Schafer

Cathie SchaferCathie Schafer

I love wine – who doesn’t right? For many years I have been drawn to wine as a lifestyle. I am a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), and am always pursuing new wines to taste, places to visit and experiences to have. I hope you’ll join me.

Other posts by Cathie Schafer
Contact author Full biography

Full biography

I love wine – who doesn’t right? For many years I have been drawn to wine as a lifestyle – again, who isn’t? At some point, I became intensely curious about wine. It evolved into a passion for pursuing wine education, but also wine experiences – because truly, the experience is what makes wine so special.



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