Cabernet Franc is one of the twenty most widely planted grape varieties worldwide. Plantings are found throughout Europe, in the New World, and even China. In many regions, it is planted as a component of a Bordeaux-style blend, playing a secondary role to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In parts of northeast Italy and the right bank region of Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc both plays a more prominent role in blends and is vinted as a varietal.
Cabernet Franc with its lower tannin levels than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright lighter red wine and contributing finesse and a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, blueberry, raspberry, and cassis, sometimes even violets.
Cabernet Franc is believed to have been established in the Libournais region of southwest France sometime in the 17th century. In 1997 DNA evidence showed that Cabernet Franc crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Franc is very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but buds and ripens at least a week earlier. This trait allows the vine to thrive in slightly cooler climates than Cabernet Sauvignon. In Bordeaux, plantings of Cabernet Franc are treated as an 'insurance policy' against inclement weather close to harvest that may damage plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Its early budding does pose the viticultural hazard of coulure early in the growing season. The vine is vigorous and upright, the berries are quite small and blue-black in colour, with fairly thin skins. The Cabernet Franc grapevine is more prone to mutation than Cabernet Sauvignon, less so than Pinot Noir.
Cabernet Franc can adapt to a wide variety of soil types but seems to thrive in sandy, chalk soils, producing heavier, more full-bodied wines. The grape is highly yield sensitive, with over-cropping producing wines with more green, vegetal notes. Today, more producers have been selling Cabernet Franc as a single varietal with significant success.