|Recent studies in ampelography,
using the relatively new application of DNA fingerprinting,
have determined that cabernet franc is one of the genetic
parents of cabernet sauvignon (the other is sauvignon
blanc). Both cabernet varieties are among the five major
grapes of Bordeaux. The differences between franc and
sauvignon become apparent when grown and fermented in
franc vines bear thinner-skinned, earlier-ripening grapes
with lower overall acidity, when compared to cabernet
sauvignon. Yields are similar, although cabernet franc
normally buds and ripens somewhat earlier. Consequently
vineyards in climates where rain is a harvest-time threat
often plant this grape, in place of or in addition to
cabernet sauvignon. Cabernet franc vines survive cold
winters better than cabernet sauvignon, but are more
susceptible to being damaged by Spring frosts.
France has by far the most cabernet
franc plantings of any wine producing nation with over
35,000 acres. There are significant plantings of cabernet
franc in St. Emilion, the Loire Valley (where it is
known as Breton), and south west France (aka Bouchy).
There are cabernet franc vineyards in Romania, Hungary,
the Balkans, and the Friuli region of north eastern
Italy (aka cabernet frank). New plantings in the 1990s
in Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina show promise.
In the United States, cabernet franc is planted in Long
Island, New York, and in Washington state. California
has about 2,000 acres, mostly planted since 1980, over
half in Napa and Sonoma.
Depending a great deal on vineyard
practices, the flavor profile of Cabernet Franc may
be both fruitier and sometimes more herbal or vegetative
than Cabernet Sauvignon, although lighter in both color
and tannins. Over-cropping and underexposure each tend
to accentuate the vegetative flavor elements. Typically
somewhat spicy in aroma and often reminiscent of plums
and especially violets, Cabernet Franc is more often
used as a secondary or tertiary element in varietally-blended
red wines, such as Bordeaux or Meritage, instead of
as a stand-alone varietal bottling.