Since 2015, every December 4, wine lovers pay tribute to this “black” grape variety on what is known as Cabernet Franc Day or Cab Franc Day. And celebrate it we should! There is not much talk about this little known grape, but it has apparently gotten around in the wine world, making a reputation for itself. As one of two parents, Cab Franc is responsible for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere. Now, these are not just rumors flying about the vineyards; DNA analysis at UC Davis has proven this to be true.
Best known as a blending grape used in Bordeaux-style wines, Cabernet Franc’s red fruit and herbal flavors are the ideal complement to two of its offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is less commonly bottled as a varietal wine, but in cooler regions where it is difficult to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is one of the main red grapes. We see this in some parts of California, the eastern United States, and Canada. Argentina is also putting out some high quality, light-bodied Cab Francs, which come in second to their fuller, well-known Malbecs.
As a varietal, Cab Franc is a dry, medium-bodied wine with medium-high acidity and tannins. Aromas of raspberries, blackcurrants, violets and graphite are part of Cab Franc’s taste profile. Uniquely, a herbaceous or green bell pepper aroma can also be detected because of the presence of methoxypyrazines. This compound is found naturally in Cab Franc and is an inherent defense against pests, which allows this grape to grow in a diverse group of places.
Cab Franc is also a great food wine, but just as good on its own. It pairs well with most meats – grilled steak or lamb, roasted pork, or smoked ham. Grilled salmon works well or any earthy mushroom dish will bring out these same subtle flavors in the wine.
So, if you have only tried one of the offspring – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Carmenere – and never the wellspring, now is a good time to get yourself a bottle of Cabernet Franc and celebrate! Happy Cabernet Franc Day!