The partnership of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, often complemented by Merlot, is at the heart of Bordeaux’s celebrated red wines. This iconic blend has proven so successful that it has spread its roots to numerous wine regions worldwide, each contributing its unique character to this dynamic duo.
Cabernet Sauvignon typically takes the lead role in this blend, offering both structure through its acidity and tannins, and aromatic complexity with notes of cassis, cedar, and tobacco. Cabernet Franc plays the supporting role, contributing a lifted, slightly more floral aroma and a subtle hint of spice on the palate. However, the Loire Valley stands as an exception to this rule, where Cabernet Franc has long been a staple red wine variety, often taking a more prominent position.
In Tuscany, this blend has been wholeheartedly embraced, with wines like Sassicaia leading the way. Sassicaia, an acclaimed “Super Tuscan,” is renowned for its characteristics of cassis and five-spice, featuring firm tannins in its youth. With aging, these wines mellow and develop secondary qualities, often led by Cabernet Franc, such as hints of tobacco, coffee, and earthy minerals.
California winemakers frequently incorporate a small percentage of Cabernet Franc into their Cabernet Sauvignon wines, following the Meritage tradition. The exact amount of Cabernet Franc added may vary from vintage to vintage, with more Cabernet Sauvignon used in exceptional years. Cabernet Franc’s tendency to ripen a week or two earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon proves invaluable in protecting wineries against late-season rain, ensuring a successful harvest.
The combination of these two grape varieties serves as a foundational building block for many other blends, most notably the renowned red Bordeaux blend. This harmonious partnership between Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon continues to captivate wine enthusiasts worldwide, producing wines with diverse flavors and aromas that showcase the best of both varieties.