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International Cabernet Franc day: the best bottles to celebrate with

Celebrate this truly global grape variety with a range of top-scoring wines from around the world...

December 4th is International Cabernet Franc Day, honouring one of the wine world’s most important, yet often understated, red grape varieties.

Although frequently found in the shadows of the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc has an equally big, if not bigger, role to play in the world of viticulture.

In addition to parenting Cabernet Sauvignon (in conjunction with Sauvignon Blanc), Cabernet Franc is also a parent variety to Merlot and Carménère.

The grape finds its origins in Bordeaux, where it is growing in cultivation today. While Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to dominate the blends here, Cabernet Franc is a frequent second fiddle in both Left Bank and Right Bank blends.

Outside of Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is one of the main players in the Loire Valley, where it is often bottled as a monovarietal wine. Here, the grape tends to create light to medium-bodied wines laden with flavours of red fruit, green bell pepper, and earth.

Beyond France, Cabernet Franc is finding significant footing in the United States (California, Washington, and New York’s Finger Lakes and Long Island regions), as well as in Argentina, Australia, and northern Italy.

On the vine, Cabernet Franc boasts thin, bluish-black skins and is earlier ripening than Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape thrives in cooler climates; when grown in chillier areas, Cabernet Franc-based wines will have lighter bodies and earthier / greener notes, whereas wines produced in warmer areas will show jammier, more fruit-driven flavours. Wines produced from Cabernet Franc often show notes of raspberry, red currants, forest floor, black pepper, green bell pepper, and earth. Acidity is generally medium to high and tannins are present yet approachable.

When produced at the hands of great winemakers, well-made expressions of Cabernet Franc can withstand decades in the cellar. For ageworthy expressions of Cabernet Franc, looking to legendary producers from Saumur, Chinon, and Saumur-Champigny is a great place to start.

Here is a selection of the best performing Cabernet Franc wines from around the world at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards to better understand what this grape is all about.


Pacheco Pereda, Estirpe Organic Fairtrade, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza 2021

Value Best in Show, 97 points
The appearance of two different Cabernet Franc wines in our Best in Show selection this year underscores the seriousness with which this variety is now being regarded away from its Bordeaux and Loire Valley heartlands. This Value Best In Show version from Agrelo in Lujan de Cuyo delivers, as you’d expect, extravagant fruit pleasure. It’s dark black-red in colour, with warm, sweetly pippy scents bubbling from the glass. In the mouth, it’s a smooth flood of soft, vibrant raspberry and damson fruits which, despite the gentleness of both its acidity and its tannins, still contrives to give the drinker a sense of texture, amplitude — and satisfaction. A sense of gravity, too, lifts those fruit flavours well clear of simplicity: another Franc hallmark? You decide. Alc 14%

El Enemigo, Gran Enemigo Cabernet Franc, El Cepillo, San Carlos, Mendoza 2018

Platinum, 97 points
Pretty and inviting on the nose with gorgeous aromas of floral violet, cassis and completed with a lifted, delicate liquorice note. The palate is graced with deep herb, pepper, crunchy red fruit and graceful, silky tannins. Alc 14%

Los Helechos, Designado Cabernet Franc, Vista Flores, Tunuyán, Mendoza 2019

Platinum, 97 points
Lifted, floral and bright, with very pretty aromatics of heady violet, green pepper and balsamic, then on to a plush palate textured with crunchy red fruit, elegant tart fruit, succulent tannins and polished, focused graceful tannins. Alc 14.4%


Seegut Lentsch, Reserve, Burgenland 2019

Silver, 94 points
Spicy nose with grassy notes and juicy red fruit aromas, hints of delicate oak. Full body with dense tannins, harmonious. Alc 14%


Bononia Estate, Istar, PGI Danube Plain, Northern Region – Danubian Plain 2020

Silver, 92 points
Subtle and elegant nose with notes of cherry and capsicum green pepper. Multi-dimensional black and blue fruits, black tea, and spring blossoms. Alc 14.5%


Cedarcreek Estate Winery, Platinum Haynes Creek, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia 2019

Gold, 96 points
Silky and inviting on the nose, with concentrated damson, light cedar and a beautiful floral lift, then on to a rounded, lush palate of roasted red capsicum, red cherry and graceful, silky tannins. Power and class. Alc 13.5%


Santa Rita, Floresta, Pumanque, Colchagua 2020

Gold, 95 points
A vibrant, vertical, and fluid style, with a lot of tension: an outstanding Cabernet Franc! Engaging, and properly varietal with green and red pepper aromas, crunchy plum, damson, and dusted chocolate. Pure, with really fine tannins and a lovely juicy darkberry acidity. Alc 14%


Trs, Premium Selection, Hrvatsko Podunavlje, Continental 2017

Silver, 93 points
Very good concentration of generous dark fruit, a tangle of earth, spring blossom, coffee tobacco, perfumed lavender, and violet lift. Beautiful wine! Alc 14.7%


Château de Chaintres, Vieilles Vignes, Saumur-Champigny, Loire 2019

Gold, 95 points
Dense, black fruit aromas with violet hints lead to an opulent, textured palate showing ripe fruit and velvety tannins. Long and firm at the back. Alc 14%

Clos Des Cordeliers, Cuvée Prestige, Saumur-Champigny, Loire 2017

Gold, 95 points
Fine and elegant with evolving bramble, red cherry and pencil lead aromas. Wonderful concentration on the palate with ripe, integrated tannins and a finessed finish. Alc 13%


Sauska, Siklós, Villány, Dél-Pannónia 2017

Silver, 92 points
Driven by oak but showing serious concentration. Spicy and savoury with very polished low-key tannins surrounding the dried fruits, vanilla, and chocolate. Alc 14.5%


Castelvecchio, Cabernet Franc, Carso, Friuli-Venezia Giulia 2019

Silver, 93 points
A simple, pure and delicious wine with juicy blackberry, plum, mint and blackcurrant aromatics, light, grippy tannins and a moderate finish. Alc 13%


Arba Wine, Kyzyl Reserve, Assa Valley, Almaty 2014

Silver, 92 points
Perfumed nose, with lovely floral notes, mint and spice; palate of lush dark fruit and subtle, silky tannins. Alc 13.5%

South Africa

KWV, The Mentors, Stellenbosch 2019

Best in Show, 97 points
Those seeking out reds based on Cabernet Franc beyond their French home are, often enough, looking for a red wine which combines something of the structure and command of Cabernet Sauvignon but with more lift, grace and aromatic refinement. The red wine from this year’s brace of South African Best In Show winners fills that role admirably. It’s dark in colour, with refined, complex, raspberry and root-spice aromas in subtle and uninsistent style. Look out for bright, pure raspberry fruits on the palate with a further twist of liquorice and gentian. The structure comes more from the wine’s quiet, limpid acidity than from any notable tannin presence, further unscoring that accessibility and responsiveness. Alc 14.5%


Chateau Chizay, Zakarpattia 2018

Silver, 92 points
Inviting, pretty nose of plush cassis and tobacco, while the palate is laced with raspberry, tomato leaf, blackberry and spice. Alc 14%


Bodega Garzón, Reserva 2020

Silver, 91 points
Restrained and elegant nose of fresh fruit, while the palate has supple tannins and a lovely smoky finish. Alc 14%


Clos du Val Estate, Stags Leap District, California 2019

Platinum, 97 points
Nose of dark, rich, juicy cassis and plum with lovely floral leafiness, hedgerow fruits, dried herbs and a hint of umami. Great concentrated fruit ripeness on the palate, with a firm, grippy tannic structure. Long, crunchy finish with ripe redcurrant and fleshy red fruit. Still has a way to go. Alc 14.4%

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