What is Cabernet Franc wine? Wine Grapes Flavors Character History Wine Food Pairing in Italy

Cabernet Franc is a black-skinned grape variety originally from the southwest of France, but now grown in wine regions all over the world. It is the parent variety of its two Bordeaux stablemates, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with which it is often blended.

By Lucie Robson
May 16, 2022

Cabernet Franc wine (grapes) in 30 seconds

  • Cabernet Franc is a black grape variety producing red wines.
  • It displays red fruit, bell pepper, light chili, and mineral notes.
  • It has medium to high acidity and tannins.
  • Alcohol and body are medium.
  • Mature Cabernet Franc displays earth and tobacco tones.
  • The Cabernet Franc grape appears in varietal wines and blends.
  • It can thrive in cool and warm climates and even makes Ice Wine in Canada and the US.
  • In Italy, Veneto produces the highest volume of Cabernet Franc.
  •  It also grows in Friuli–Venezia Giulia, Tuscany, Sicily, and Puglia.
  •  It appears in around 50 appellations across Italy.
  •  Alcohol is typically between 11.5% and 13.5%.

 What is Cabernet Franc wine?

Cabernet Franc is a black grape variety that appears in blends and mono-varietal wines famed for being food-friendly. It’s often compared to Cabernet Sauvignon and rightly so since both are related and share many characteristics. However, Cabernet Franc is generally gentler and more accessible than its relative grape.

Italy is among the top three producers of wines from Cabernet Franc worldwide.



What is Cabernet Franc taste like?

Cabernet Franc is generally best consumed within five years but fine mature examples are also common, especially in Bordeaux.


Young (up to five years) Cabernet Franc displays red fruit, a touch of spicy chili, a wash of minerality, and distinct bell pepper notes. Mature examples typically have tobacco, leather, and earthy tones. Alcohol tends to be medium while tannins and acidity are medium to high.


A Super Tuscan Cabernet Franc varietal or blend displays rich black and red fruit, chili flakes, cinnamon, cocoa, and leather. Alcohol is higher than cool climate Cabernet Franc, acidity is medium, and tannins are firm. Oak aging adds texture and body.


How would you describe Cabernet Franc?

In Italy, this black grape makes dry red and rosé wines. In the Loire Valley, there is a famous medium-sweet rosé style blend.


Italian Cabernet Franc also appears in Superiore styles which means it has a higher alcohol level than the local appellation regulations dictate.




What do you pair with Cabernet Franc?

Cabernet Franc has the ideal balance of components to offer versatility as a food pairing wine. It’s a food-friendly wine that pairs with a range of flavors. Read on for our suggestions.


Youthful Cabernet Cabernet Franc Food Pairing


  • Appetizers: Charcuterie; patés; bruschetta with herbs and tomatoes.
  • Entrées: Chicken stew; roast chicken; herby rack of lamb; grilled artichokes; Margherita pizza; tomato-based pasta; grilled tuna; grilled salmon.
  • Cheese: Young pecorino; goat’s cheese.


Mature Cabernet Cabernet Franc Food Pairing

  • Appetizers: Prosciutto; salami; black olives; bruschetta.
  • Entrées: Roast chicken; roast duck; lamb; grilled tuna; grilled salmon; rich tomato pasta; lasagne alla parmigiana; sausage pizza.
  • Cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano; Grana Padano.


Top Cabernet Franc Appellations/ Areas 

Cabernet Franc is a monovarietal and blend wine in around 50 appellations in Italy. Important appellations for Italian expressions of Cabernet Franc include Bolgheri DOC, Alto Adige / Südtirol DOC, Piemonte DOC, and Valdichiana Toscana DOC.

DOCG areas are Colli di Conegliano DOCG and Montello Rosso / Montello DOCG both in Veneto.

It’s also bottled under the Super Tuscan IGT appellation.



Is Cabernet Franc from France?

Ampelographers think Cabernet Franc arrived in what is now the Libournais areas of southwest France from the Loire in the 1600s. It flourished in the Right Bank of Bordeaux where it became known for making quality wines in Pomerol, St-Emilion, and Fronsac.


In the last 20th century, DNA researchers established that the grape was a parent (along with Sauvignon Blanc) of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s also a parent of that other great Bordeaux grape, Merlot.


It shares many similarities with Cabernet Sauvignon but buds and ripens at least a week earlier than its offspring.



What kind of wine is similar to Cabernet Franc?

  • Cabernet Sauvignon blends, Bordeaux, France.
  • Tempranillo, Spain.
  • Carménère, Chile.
  • Malbec, Argentina.
  • Beaujolais Cru, France


Fun facts

  • Cabernet Franc is one of Cabernet Sauvignon parents. Sauvignon Blanc is the other.
  • It’s one of the six key blending grapes for the great wines of Bordeaux.
  • This grape is also known as Bordo, Bouchet, Bouchy, Breton, Cabernet Franco, and Cabernet Frank.

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