Betty's Wine Musings
Cabernet Franc vs. Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Franc vs. Cabernet Sauvignon

I recently was asked about the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. I knew that Cabernet Franc, along with Sauvignon Blanc, was the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. I also knew that both grapes play a key role in Red Bordeaux blends. But I wanted to learn more. So I did a little research, and I would like to share with you what I learned.

This table highlights some of the key differences between the two grapes. I highly recommend trying the wines side by side to see if you can notice some of the differences in aromas and tastes, color, tannin and more.

Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon
Color Lighter red Darker red
Tannin Lower tannin Higher tannin
Acidity Lower acidity Higher acidity
Age worthiness Best enjoyed young (under 3 years) Can be very age worthy
Skin thickness Thinner skin, which contributes to the lighter color, lower tannin and lower age worthiness Thicker skin, which contributes to the darker color, heavier tannin and higher age worthiness
Aromas and tastes More perfumy and herbaceous, with notes of raspberry, cherry, plum, cassis, violet, tobacco and bell pepper Less perfumy and herbaceous, with notes of blackberry, black cherry, cassis, oak, vanilla, smoke, tar, leather, earth, bell pepper, asparagus and green olive (the last three, when the grapes are from cooler climates)
Geography Grown in France, Romania, Hungary, the Balkans, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and the United States Grown throughout the world
How is it used Cabernet Franc is more frequently blended with other wines than drunk on its own. On its own, Cabernet Franc often lacks the structure and complexity to produce a great wine. But when you find a good one, it’s a real treat. Cabernet Sauvignon is more often drunk on its own. Many of the world’s most celebrated wines have been made from this grape.

If you are not very familiar with standalone Cabernet Francs, I encourage you to buy several bottles and judge for yourself. I think you will find Cabernet Franc to be a great addition to your wine repertoire.

Please share your thoughts about Cabernet Franc vs. Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you would like to join me in the wonderful world of wine consulting, I would love to speak with you. Please visit my Wine Business page as a first step. Cheers!

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, would like to host a tasting, seek a special 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!

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. Me, being the visual person that I am, sincerely appreciate the side-by-side comparison chart that you’ve provided, Betty. Thank you! I personally love Cabernet Franc. You are right in that it is often used to blend with other varietals. I am; however, not a huge fan of most stand-alone Cabernet Sauvignons–unless it’s a truly exceptional bottle. The next time I run into a 100% Cab Franc that is exceptional, I will report back to you, Betty!

    1. Thanks Dawn! Side-by-side comparison charts are my favorites too. Much easier than line upon line of copy. Have you tried Cooper Garrod’s Cab Franc? Some years are very good.

  2. I cannot recall the last time I tried a Cab Franc, and I do not recall what it tasted like. Now I am intrigued and do want to try them side by side as Betty suggests. I feel a tasting coming on… Thank you so much for these great intriguing wine musings!

  3. Both Titus and Vermeil have very good Cab. Francs if you are looking. I also like some Bordeaux blends that use~50%. Good luck in your search, I personally like the lower tannin content than a straight young Napa Cab.

  4. Very interesting to read your comments on Sauvignon Cabernet & Franc. However I am somewhat confussed about a South African wine which lists it’s grapes as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, but says it is a combination of FOUR graper NOT FIVE. Can you please enlighten me on how this can possibly be?
    Looking forward to your reply for more education in the wonderful world of wine tasting
    Robert Fearn

    1. All I can come up with is that somebody lost track of their count. Perhaps they were only going to put four wines in, but then they put a fifth one in at the last minute and forgot to update their copy. I think that’s pretty funny. If it were a stamp, it would be worth a lot of money.

  5. Hi iam new to drinking wine, I like dry red wines so far, and Iam looking for wines that don’t have any residual sugars to them, what are some good wines under $15 that you recommend. And is Cabernet Franc sweeter than Cabernet Sauvignon? And are all Cabernet Sauvignon considered dry or are some considered sweet? Thanks I appreciate your time.

    1. Hi Jen. Thank you so much for your questions. You’ll be surprised to learn that even the driest American wines typically have a wee bit of residual sugar in them. We Americans like our wine a just a little sweet. So winemakers accommodate our likings. In Europe, you might be able to find some bone-dry wines – with 0% residual sugar. But the taste might be a bit challenging if you’re used to drinking CA wines. According to Wine Folly, “Many wine drinkers actually prefer a little residual sugar in their red wine because of the richness, complexity and body sugar adds to wine… but just a touch!” Cabs and Cab Francs are equally dry. Both are considered dry wines. There are plenty of good dry red wines for under $15. Since sugar and alcohol levels are inversely related, I would look for wines with higher alcohol levels (14% and above). They will have lower levels of sugar. I hope this helps.

      1. Thank you for your info, that definitely helps! I appreciate your feedback! We’ll keep in touch. BTW, is there any good wine clubs to join online as far as ordering some wine from time to time.
        Thanks a lot,

  6. Great info! Have been consuming pure Cabernet Franc from Chile for the past 5 years if not longer but upon trying the new release compared to a Cabernet Sauvignon for 2016 I favor Cabernet Sauvignon this time. So I did an online search to know the difference between the two wines and discovered your blog. Cheers!

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