Peppery, Perfumed and Finessed: Cabernet Franc

VINcabulary : Cabernet Franc

{cab-er-nay FRAWNK}

It’s easy to mistake cabernet franc for cabernet sauvignon lite. On paper, all signs point that way. Cab franc buds and ripens earlier than cab sauv, it’s lighter in tannins, colour and body than the king of grapes, and typically matures earlier in the bottle. Mais non – in reality, cab franc predates and even begat the king, as cabernet sauvignon is a cross between parents cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc.

While the peppery, perfumed and finessed franc can certainly hold its own, it is often selected to play a supporting, rather than starring role. It has proven to be an excellent blending partner to its heir, especially when accompanied by merlot, as in Bordeaux and Meritage blends. Here, the green tinged raspberry, herbal tobacco, cassis and leafy notes add a fresh and lifted seasoning note to the blend. Dependable franc is considered viticultural insurance in the vineyard, ripening in cooler years when cabernet sauvignon won’t. The grape is well accustomed to cooler climates; it was found in France’s Loire Valley in the 17th century, planted at the Abbey of Bourgueil under the care of Abbot Breton (Breton is one synonym for the grape). Cabernet Franc is an indie darling of many BC winemakers, who appreciate the complementary savoury and herbal notes of this characterful blue-black grape.



Little Farm Winery
Rosé 2013
Similkameen Valley, BC
*$25  13%

All a rosé should be: pure, bright and vibrant. This single vineyard, 100% cab franc beauty should be your go-to pink this year. Wild strawberry and tangerine aromas lead to fragrant cherries, dried sage and dusty, stony spice.



Bernard Baudry
Les Grézeaux 2010
Chinon AC, Loire, France
$33.50  13%

Iconic producer. 50+ year old vines, fermented in concrete and aged in neutral barrels, yields alluring (and charmingly funky) notes of sand, cassis, cherry, earth and pencil lead. Clay clad tannins end with great spice and length.



Cabernet Franc 2011
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$14  13.5%

The herbaceous vein that cab franc can veer to is in full effect here, though not to its detriment. Fresh and spicy, with pine branch, bing cherry, tart cranberry and tobacco leaf on the finish.



Oveja Negra
Cabernet Franc / Carménère Reserva 2011
Valle del Maule, Chile
*16  13.5%

Carménère supports in this satisfying and complete mouthfilling blend, with sundried cherry, salted olives, tobacco, bramble and bacon notes.



Synchromesh Wines
Tertre Rouge 2011, Turtle Rock Farms
Naramata, Okanagan Valley, BC
*$35  13.8%

From a single vineyard above the Naramata Bench comes this expressive cab franc/merlot blend with black cherry, spicy cassis, sun ripened tomato, dark chocolate, roasted coffee and fragrant blackberry.



Cabernet Franc 2009
Oakville, Napa Valley, California
*$75  14.3%

A beautifully rich and structured Napa red, with deep and ripe cassis, cracked black pepper and herbal thorns balanced out over a supple, complete palate.


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*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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