Cabernet Franc is one of three main grapes used in Bordeaux wine blends. The grape reaches its best expression and potential in the limestone soils found in the Bordeaux wine appellation of St. Emilion. Pomerol also offers fertile soils for the varietal. Cabernet Franc is planted with varying degrees of success in other French wine regions; for example, the Loire Valley. It has continued gaining in popularity in America as well as in other wine producing countries. Few wineries outside of the Lorie Valley and America seem to have produced successful wines from 100% Cabernet Franc. More often than not, the wine is blended with other grapes.
Cabernet Franc is less popular today than it was at the start of the 20th century. At that point in time, almost as much vineyard land was devoted to Cabernet Franc as it was to Cabernet Sauvignon. While Cabernet Franc first earned its popularity in the Loire Valley in the 1700′s, perhaps its greatest claim is due to the fact that it gave birth to Cabernet Sauvignon after it was crossed with Sauvignon Blanc.
Cabernet Franc shares DNA with Cabernet Sauvignon. But there are numerous differences between the grapes. Cabernet Franc ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon and it is better suited to cooler vintages than Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc performs well in stone and chalk soils as well as in sandy terroir. Perhaps the grape earns its highest accolades from the wines produced at Chateau Cheval Blanc, located in the Right Bank region of Bordeaux. With global warming, more land is being devoted to Cabernet Franc in Pomerol and St. Emilion these days.
Not as fleshy as Merlot and with less tannic structure than Cabernet Sauvignon, this deeply colored, thin skinned berry offers floral, plum, blackberry, cassis, spice and fresh herb flavors when ripe. When not ripe, it’s possible to find green pepper or other green vegetal aromas. Wines with a healthy portion of Cabernet Franc can be difficult to taste and assess when young.
The Right Bank regions of Bordeaux maintain the highest concentration of Cabernet Franc plantings, where the variety is used as a blending grape. The wine featuring the highest proportion of Cabernet Franc is 1990 Le Petit Cheval, the second wine of Cheval Blanc. That wine features a record setting 98% Cabernet Franc! This is followed by 1998 Petit Cheval at 86% and 2003 Petit Cheval with 77%.
In Pomerol, the highest concentration of Cabernet Franc is probably found in 2010 Chateau Lafleur, which used 62%! This is followed by their 2009 wine with 53% Cabernet Franc.
More Cabernet Franc is planted in St. Emilion than in any other Bordeaux wine region. The following list of properties showcases most of the better-known Bordeaux chateaux from St. Emilion with a high percentage of Cabernet Franc planted in their Bordeaux vineyards.
At least two wines from Bordeaux are produced from 100% Cabernet Franc! Starting with the 2004 vintage, Chateau Trotte Vieille began producing a limited about wine, 135, numbered bottles to be exact of a special 100% Cabernet Franc made from vines that date back close to 150 years! I was quite surprised to discover another St. Emilion wine that is produced from 100% Cabernet Franc. Chateau Belle Assise, in the St. Sulpice sector of the appellation is made from 100% Cabernet Franc.
Vieux Fortin 40% CF
Milens 30% CF
Ferrand 30% CF
Lusseau 30% CF
Cormeil-Figeac 30% CF
Haut Gravet 30% CF
La tour du Pin Figeac 30% CF
Grand Corbin Almost 30% CF
Corbin Micholette 30% CF
Ripeau 30% CF
Bellefont-Belcier 30% CF
Canon Over 25% CF
Pavie Macquin 25% CF
Larcis Ducasse about 25% CF
Clos Badon Thunevin 25% CF