No doubt Cabernet Franc is one of the most important and old varieties of the Bordeaux region. However, recent genetic and historical studies point to the Basque Country as its true origin.
With an average ripening, it is a variety rather vigorous with small berries. It is well acclimated to limestone clay soils but can also be adapted to sandy soils with no moisture stress. It is very similar to the Cabernet Sauvignon variety, but its leaves are less serrated. It buds and ripens earlier than the Cabernet Sauvignon being more prone to millerandage. Vine shoots are hard and its berries small.
Cabernet Franc wines are, usually, clearer, lighter fresh, smoother and obviously more fragrant than its progenitor Cabernet Sauvignon. The aroma is more elegant, refreshing and occasionally a bit herbaceous depending on its maturity level. The crop outcome is crucial as the lack of maturity can produce high levels of metoxipirazina (herbaceous compounds).
In France, the Cabernet Franc variety is the sixth red grape most planted, far from the fifth one, Cariñena. The French origin of the Cabernet Franc is the Loire Valley, where, thanks to improved winemaking techniques and not due to any decrease in production, wines elaborated are much more matures. Even though in some other locations the Cabernet Franc is used basically as blending variety, is in the Loire Valley where it stands out as dominant and, in many cases, as the only one. In this area, we find Cabernet Franc wines of the utmost quality, fragrant, floral, middle-bodied, balanced and silky, with raspberry aromas. Some good examples of this variety are: Chinon from Château de Coulaine, Bernard Baudry, Philippe Alliet, Charles Joguet (Les Varennes du Grand Clos is yielded from old vines without graft); Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil of Yannick Amirault, Domaine de la Butte, Catherine Pierre Breton, Domaine de la Cotellaraie and Pierre Jacques Druet; and also Saumur and Saumur-Champingy from Château Fouquet, Château de Hureau and Clos Rougeard.
Bordeaux is another interesting region as far as the production of Cabernet Franc is concerned, since its growing cycle is more regular than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Cabernet Franc variety acclimates well to cold climates so it has been traditionally grown for the production of great wines in the right margin of the Gironde estuary. Thus, together with the Merlot variety it has an important role in the appellation Saint-Émilion, being part of the blend in some vintages of the best wines such as Château Cheval Blanc.