Betty's Wine Musings

Cabernet Franc fascinates me. Some people love it, and some people don’t. Are you a fan of Cabernet Franc? If so, why? I’d love to learn more about what makes this grape appealing to some and not appealing to others. Today, we’re going to dig into this grape in delicious detail. I hope you enjoy it. A big thank you to Wine Folly for their help with this article.

Are You a Fan of Cabernet Franc?

What Is Cabernet Franc Known For?

Cabernet Franc is a medium-bodied red wine, which is known for its herbaceous bell pepper flavors, medium-high acidity and mouthwatering taste. While it tastes delicious on its own, it’s better known as a blending grape in Red Bordeaux wines.

Where Does the Bell Pepper Flavor Come From?

The herbaceous bell pepper flavor is caused by a group of related aroma compounds called methoxypyrazines or “pyrazines” for short. These compounds occur naturally in Cabernet Franc vines as a natural defense system against pests. And, it’s part of the reason why this grape successfully grows in such a diverse range of places. The bell pepper flavor definitely takes getting used to.

A Few Other Facts to Help You Become a Fan of Cabernet Franc

  • The grape’s origin: It is believed that Cabernet Franc originates in the Basque region of France, which is in the extreme southwest of France.
  • Food pairings: This wine is a great food pairing wine. It pairs especially well with tomato-based dishes, vinegar-based sauces  and rich legumes. It is a perfect pairing with dishes featuring fresh herbs.
  • Interesting relations: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. The parenting happened in the middle 1600s in Bordeaux.
  • Where it’s grown: France, Romania, Hungary, the Balkans, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and the United States.

Comparing Cabernet Franc to Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s fun to compare the father (Cabernet Franc) to the son (Cabernet Sauvignon). You’ll definitely find some differences.

  • Ripening Speed. Cabernet Franc ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Handling cool climates. Cabernet Franc does better than Cabernet Sauvignon in cooler climates.
  • Versatility when growing. Cabernet Sauvignon is the more versatile grape in the vineyard, because it is more vigorous and thicker skinned.
  • Versatility when consuming. Cab Franc is more versatile when it’s time for consumption. Cabernet Sauvignon feels more like winter. Cabernet Franc, on the other hand, can be enjoyed throughout the year.
  • Ageability: Because it has lower tannins, Cabernet Franc isn’t as good at aging as Cabernet is. Typically, you will drink one of these wines within 3 to 5 years.

You might be interested in reading an article I wrote 10 years ago comparing the two grapes.

Wise Words from Jancis Robinson

Jancis Robinson is a fan of Cabernet Franc. She wisely said, “I’m not a huge enthusiast of the sexual stereotyping of wines but even I can see that Cabernet Franc might be described as the feminine side of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is subtly fragrant and gently flirtatious rather than massively muscular and tough in youth. Because Cabernet Sauvignon has so much more of everything – body, tannin, alcohol, colour – it is often supposed to be necessarily superior, but I have a very soft spot indeed for its more charming and more aromatic relative, Cabernet Franc.” 

Are you a fan of Cabernet Franc? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

BettyPhotoCircularAs an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

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  1. I am a fan of Cab Franc….when it’s done right. Here in Northern Ohio we have a cooler climate where Cab Franc does well. The best wines are made in the vineyard. When the vines are attended to, Cab Franc is rich and only slightly herbaceous. When it’s overcropped there is no fruit left, bell pepper dominates. The best example here can rival any Cab Franc from California when finished in new and used oak barrels then blended. Aromas of violets and sage are typical. Some have compared the taste to a cross between Pinot Noir and Cab Sauvignon.
    On the other hand, a winery five minutes away prefers quantity over quality in their Cab Franc. It’s a business decision; they sell every bottle their vineyard can produce so why not boost the yield. That’s not for me.

    1. OMG, I’m going to need to try one of your Cab Francs. I’ve only had a few in my life that I love. I completely agree with you that Cab Franc requires very skilled wine making.

  2. Betty,

    I first started making wine while in college. I wasn’t old enough to buy wine and it was a chemistry and engineering experiment. The wine wasn’t good, but it made the co-eds giggle, so I decided to learn more and get better at it. Some years later I was offered a position as winemaker when the owner/winemaker of a winery died. I declined since it meant leaving a nice engineering job and moving to new city with a new wife.
    I have remained an amateur winemaker involved with the American Wine Society for 20 years, the Northern Ohio Wine Guild for 30 years, and an associate member of Vintners of Northeast Ohio for 10 years. As well as making wine, in recent years I have been more involved in wine education. I submit articles to a regional monthly magazine and just last weekend gave a zoom presentation to the regional AWS chapter.
    As an amateur, I am not allowed to sell wines and currently don’t have a Cab Franc in the cellar anyway. I source grapes from California, Washington, the Finger Lakes, the Niagara Peninsula, and the Ohio State University agricultural vineyard, as well as a few vines in my yard. The OSU site is where I source Cab Franc when I can get it. The vineyard is beautifully maintained by college students pursuing degrees as winemakers, vineyard managers, and lab technicians. I am only able to get the grapes when local wineries don’t purchase the whole crop. One of the goals of the OSU is to experiment with various grapes to find the most suitable for this part of the country. In the past they have offered Pinot Blanc, Kerner, Friulano, Auxerrois, and many other whites. Cab franc remains their most successful red, and their Pinot Noir is remarkable although in short supply.
    I have to say that reading your musings has helped inspire me to continue exploring the many ways to educate and excite wine lovers whenever I can.

    1. Oh wow, Jim. That is so cool. The next time you come across a good Cab Franc, will you please let me know about it? The best one I ever had was from Cooper Garrod in Saratoga, CA. But that was probably 15 or 20 years ago. Their Cab Francs of late haven’t been as good – at least not for me. If you ever would like to write a guest blog article for me, I’d be delighted. You can reach me directly at Cheers!

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