The offspring of the marriage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc is an expressive, aromatic, and delicately earthy varietal used by California vintners to add a hint of violets, a wisp of spice, or a touch of tobacco to their Bordeaux-style blends. In France, the varietal is more broadly planted, particularlly in the region of Libournais and the sub-region around the villages of Pomerol and St. Emillion, where it is known as Bouchet.
In Italy’s Friuli region Cabernet Franc reigns supreme as the most popular red varietal and in Tuscany, where it is used as part of several renowned “Super Tuscan” blends, it is grown with thrice the frequency of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Lighter-bodied and less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc offers more floral aromas and, on occasion, an earthy dried-herbal character. Other notable features include the ability to reflect the terroir of a vineyard with palatable particularity. When grown, for example, at higher altitudes, the grape will express the minerality found in the rocky soil and the that subtle hint of slate or graphite extracted and imparted from the soil can give the otherwise delicate and floral varietal the “stones” it needs to stand up to the more earthy and robust flavors of, say, grilled meats or roasted root vegetables.