Any parent of Cabernet Sauvignon deserves respect. But Cabernet Franc is an inflexible parent only revealing its true character and personality in a handful of regions.
Cabernet Franc from the Languedoc
Cabernet Franc is an important variety in its own right but is most famous for playing second fiddle to Cabernet Sauvignon. In France's Medoc is plays a small part in the Grand Cru wines whilst in St Émilion, on Bordeaux's right bank it usurps Cabernet Sauvignon, often being a large part of the blend. In the middle Loire, around Saumur it can also, in warmer years produce great wine, especially such regions as Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil, Chinon and Anjou-Villages.
The vine looks much like Cabernet Sauvignon, except that the leaves are less indented. Cabernet Franc buds and ripens earlier, which makes it more susceptible to coulure (where the grapes fail to develop), but it needs less heat to ripen fully. In left-bank Bordeaux, it is seen, with merlot, as a sort of insurance policy against a cool season. In very general terms, wine made from Cabernet Franc tends to be aromatically fruity, lighter and less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon and, especially in the Loire, can smell appetisingly of pencil shavings.
Cabernet Franc is widely grown in North-East Italy and also to great success in Tuscany It is also grown over the border in Slovenia, although Cabernet Sauvignon is much more common in the rest of central Europe. In the new world, in most of which Cabernet Sauvignon can easily be ripened, Cabernet Franc is widely regarded as essential for respectability to make up the holy Bordeaux trio, with Merlot. Varietal versions have emerged from Australia, South Africa and California to show just how appetising this variety can be unblended. It really shines in cooler regions such as Long Island in New York state, parts of Washington state and New Zealand.