Cabernet Franc is one of the major red grape varieties worldwide. Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine and contributing finesse and a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, and cassis, sometimes even violets.
Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century; it was planted in Loire long before that. DNA analysis indicates Cabernet Franc is one of two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, a cross between it and Sauvignon Blanc
Cabernet Franc is believed to have been established in the Libournais region of southwest France sometime in the 17th century when Cardinal Richelieu transported cuttings of the vine to the Loire Valley. They were planted at the Abbey of Bourgueil under the care of an abbot named Breton, whose name became associated with the grape. By the 18th century, plantings of Cabernet Franc (known as Bouchet) were found throughout Fronsac, Pomerol and St-Emilion, making quality wines. As Cabernet Sauvignon became more popular in the 18th & 19th century, the close similarity of the two grapes was observed and theories emerged as to the extent of the relationship. In 1997 DNA evidence emerged to show that Cabernet Franc crossed with Sauvignon blanc to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.
By 2000 there were over 17,300 acres (7000 ha) of Cabernet Franc in Italy. However, the grape variety is commonly confused with both Cabernet Sauvignon and the ancient Bordeaux grape Carmenere so the true acreage may not be known till more vineyards have been surveyed by ampelographers. It is mostly planted in the far northeast of Italy, particularly in Friuli, but it is also found in the wines of the Veneto (where is known as Bordo), as part of some Chianti blends, even as far south as Puglia. Plantings of Cabernet Franc in Tuscany have been increasing in recent years, particularly in the Bolgheri and Maremma region where the grape is prized for the balance and elegance that it brings to blends. Italians wines often labeled simply as "Cabernet" tend to be primarily Cabernet Franc or a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon
Viticulture and winemaking
In general, Cabernet Franc is very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but buds and ripens at least a week earlier. This trait allows the vine to thrive in slightly cooler climates than Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Loire Valley. In Bordeaux, plantings of Cabernet Franc are treated as an "insurance policy" against inclement weather close to harvest that may damage plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its early budding does pose the viticultural hazard of “coulure” early in the growing season. The vine is vigorous and upright, with dark-green, 5-lobed leaves. The winged bunches are elongate and small-medium in size. The berries are quite small and blue-black in colour, with fairly thin skins. The Cabernet Franc grapevine is more prone to mutation than Cabernet Sauvignon, less so than Pinot noir.
Cabernet Franc can adapt to a wide variety of vineyard soil types but seems to thrive in sandy, chalk soils, producing heavier, more full bodied wines there. In the Loire Valley, terroir based differences can be perceived between wines made from grapes grown in gravel terraces versus tuffeau slopes. The grape is highly yield sensitive, with over-cropping producing wines with more green, vegetal notes.
Environmental and agricultural characteristics and needs: It has medium sized leaf, orbicular, five-lobed, medium cluster, cylindrical-conical shaped, medium compact sized, winged, medium-sized berry tending to medium-small, spherical, very tough skin, blue- black colour.
It prefers hilly terrain, and deep clay, pebbly.
Diseases and adversity: it has a certain sensitivity to downy mildew , to powdery mildew and rot; it is easily attacked by botrytis, and is particularly sensitive to desiccation of the spine and the lack of potassium. It bears quite well cold winters.