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The Story Behind Cabernet Franc

While Cabernet Franc wines continue to grow in popularity worldwide, this dark-skinned grape variety does bear an important legacy in the evolution of the global wine industry. Along with Sauvignon Blanc, the Cabernet Franc grape is a parental grape of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, two of the most popular varietals in the world today.

A Bit of History

The first Cabernet Franc grapes, also called “bouchet” by the French, are believed to have been cultivated for wine as early as the 17th Century. The variety’s origin has been traced to the Le Libournais area, the Basque region near the southwest border of France and northern Spain.

Today the grape is cultivated in most of the major wine-growing areas of the world. In France, the grapes are cultivated mainly in the Loire and Bordeaux Regions of France, Italy (Tuscany), the United States, Hungary, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Argentina, and others.

Not only is the Cabernet Franc grape important in many Bordeaux blends, but Loire Valley grapes in France also produce many single-varietal wines, notably around Chinon and Bourgueil.

The Taste of Cabernet Franc

The Cabernet Franc varietal is famous for blending with other red wines like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to produce Bordeaux-style wines that lend their distinctive flavor and aroma. The medium-body wine imparts flavors of strawberry and raspberry, as well as a usually recognizable taste of bell pepper resulting from the pyrazines found in the skins and stems. Grapes grown in cooler climates tend to have a higher acidity, while the warmer climate fruits usually yield sweeter flavors of dried fruits and strawberries.

Because of the wine’s diverse and distinctive flavors, many winemakers today add Cabernet Franc in varying degrees to blend with other reds to create distinct flavors.

An excellent example of an outstanding blend is St Helena-based Wheeler Farms Wines’ blend, 2019 J.H. Wheeler Cuvée 1880, a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. This wine presents a deep crimson color with an aromatic symphony of fresh berries, cacao nibs, and crème brulée.

Elsewhere Cabernet Franc grapes are used in some of the world’s most heralded wines, including light red wines and rosés. When blended with Merlot, the resulting wines are among the world’s most famous, highly valued wines, including Château Pétrus, Château Ausone, and Château Angélus.

And in the Loire Valley of France, the Cabernet Franc varietal is considered one of the most popular varietals produced and consumed.

What Pairs Best with Cabernet Franc?

An acidic, medium-body Cabernet Franc can be a perfect accompaniment for your next dinner featuring tomato-based items like pizza, meatballs in tomato sauce, or a beef stew. The varietal also works well with more pungent flavored cheeses like Brie, Bleu Cheese, Goat Cheese, or Feta.

Visit Wheeler Farms in St. Helena

Wheeler Farms is situated on a historic estate near St. Helena near the center of Napa Valley, where the Wheelers family first grew grapes and produced wines during the second half of the 19th Century. The current owners and the winemaker at Wheeler Farms are dedicated to creating high-end, award-winning wines that preserve the legacy of those pioneers for their clientele and their J.H. Wheeler Wine Experiences Members.

See the Wheeler Farms website to learn more about the winery and Wine Club, purchase wines, or reserve a place for a future visit to taste some of their extraordinary wines.


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