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Why I Think Cabernet Franc is Better Than Cabernet Sauvignon

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There are those things we eat, make, read, and gush over that are just too good to keep to ourselves. Here, we resist the urge to use too many exclamation points and let you in on our latest crushes.

Today: An ode to Cabernet Franc, the largely produced, yet too often unsung, little gem of a wine.

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Cabernet Sauvignon is like the wine world's portly uncle who tells you more than you'll ever want to know about grilling steak. He's big, he's loud, and he needs to be front and center when it comes to food. And there's a time and place for that. But when I'm looking for a varietal for every day—the one that I can drink with dinner or take sips of on its own—I choose Cabernet Franc. 

Somewhere along my armchair journey to find the ideal wine (extensive research, many bottles procured), I happened upon the Loire Valley. A prolific and well-known region for wine in central France, the Loire is exactly how you might imagine a world where Marie Antoinette makes decisions about things: expertly-coiffed gardens, imposing castles, ebullient cuisine—and wine, so much wine. It is in this region where I found my wine soulmate, Cabernet Franc.

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Cabernet Franc doesn't get a lot of credit, though it can be found in most wine shops. (And though I'm singing your praises—please stay that way, okay? I'd like to continue drinking you cheaply.) It's often blended with other grapes and can be seen as too thin or too light by lovers of big, swaggering reds. But to me, that's why it's perfection:

With some of your bottles giving off wisps of berry, some smacking more vegetal notes, and still others with more earthiness on the nose than a freshly potted plant, you've got more going on than what meets the mouth, Cabernet Franc. I love how you deeply breathe in your terroir—it can give you such a different personality depending on where you're grown. You slowly mellow with age, but not into a syrup or to the detriment of your characteristic brightness (at least, not too much). 

And hardly anyone even knows that you're actually the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. It's time to deflate that grape's britches, don't you think? The understated is in these days.

Illustrations by Alex Bowman

Tags: wine, cabernet franc, terroir, grapes