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The Complete Cabernet Franc Food Pairing Guide

Cabernet Franc food pairing
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Cabernet Franc is an underrated wine varietal in our opinion. Learn some great Cabernet Franc food pairing suggestions below.

You have probably come across articles and social media posts about the purported benefits of red wine — benefits like its ability to lower one’s cholesterol, keep your memory sharp, and boost your immune system via antioxidants — but how much do you know about red wines themselves?

Red wines earn their name for their color and they get that color due to the grape skin, grape pip, and grape seed being included during the fermentation process. This inclusion leads red wine to be fermented at higher temperatures in order to extract those reddish hues as well as tannin, aroma, and unique flavors that will differentiate them from white wine counterparts even when the same grape is used.

There are over 50 red wine varietals that a consumer is likely to encounter when shopping at globally-sourced wine markets. Of course, there are some varieties that you are going to encounter more often than not due to their popularity and market accessibility.

One popular yet often under-rated type of red wine is Cabernet Franc.

The Best Red Wines for Beginners (Series): #4 Cabernet Franc

What is Cabernet Franc?

Cabernet Franc (sometimes shortened by wine buyers and sellers as Cab Franc) is a wine that is produced from a French grape. Unlike some varieties of red wine, the French red wine grape that makes the Cabernet Franc can be sourced from any region in the world.

Depending upon where and who you buy a Cabernet Franc from, it may be blended with other grapes, but most will be labeled as a single-varietal wine. The grape used in Cabernet Franc wines is also grown in order to blend Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. 

The History of the Cabernet Franc

The Cabernet Franc’s history can be traced back to the seventeenth century when the grape called bouchet was grown in Basque country, a region near the borders of France and Spain.

This grape became more popular during the 1700s when it was crossed with a Sauvignon Blanc and that popularity lent it to being grown more widely throughout France and Spain. Today, this grape is grown throughout the world for both the use of creating the Cabernet Franc as well as those blended varieties. 

Characteristics of the Cabernet Franc Grape

Cabernet Franc grape
Viala et Vermorel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

There are three key characteristics that make Cabernet Franc grapes different than other types of red wine grapes like Malbec or Merlot:

  • Exceptional hardiness. The reason why the Cabernet Franc grape can be grown throughout the world is due in large part to the grape being exceptionally hardy. This grape and its fines can adapt to a great variety of climates, including very cold climates in which other grape varieties would struggle to put forth flowers. The Cabernet Franc grape can also be grown in many different types of soil.
  • Thin skin. Despite being able to withstand colder weather, the grape features a thin outer skin. This is an important characteristic as it changes the way the resulting Cab Franc wine looks. The thin skin results in a finished wine that is more moderate in tannin and thus appears lighter in both body and color than a closely related red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Packed with pyrazines. The Cabernet Franc grape is also packed with pyrazine, which is a heterocyclic aromatic organic compound that gives the wine a grassier, herbaceous aroma. This also contributes to the finished wine having a herby or peppery earthiness taste, as bell peppers and jalapeno peppers are likewise packed with pyrazines. 

Cabernet Franc Food Pairing: Which Foods?

Cabernet franc is a very popular lunch and dinner wine thanks to it offering the typical red wine boldness. Due to the thinner, lighter nature of the grapes, it is lighter than a lot of other red wines often suggested in food and wine pairing guides. Great meals to pair this wine with include:

Cheeses and Cheese-Heavy Foods Like Lasagna

Cabernet Franc goes beautifully with cheeses both when you’re doing something like a cheese-heavy charcuterie plate and when making a more cheese-based dish like  a spinach and cheese quince or lasagna.

Feta, goat cheese, and brie are particularly great cheese pairings with Cab Franc. This wine works so well with cheese because its high acidity and medium tannins perfectly complement the rich fattiness of most cheeses. 

Heavy Meat Dishes

That same complementing taste profile Cabernet Franc has with cheeses is likewise the same reason this wine goes so well with rich and heavy meat dishes.

cabernet franc food pairing: heavy meat dishes
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Beef stews and roasts, venison, pork belly, and Chicken Marsala all have a fatty profile that are nicely finished with a medium-bodied Cabernet Franc. That medium body ensures that you won’t feel overly sluggish after a big meal, while still enjoying the rich taste of a red wine.

Vegetarian Dishes

You might not think that a wine that’s recommended for heavy, fatty foods would be the same one recommended for lighter vegetarian fare, but it is true when it comes to Cabernet Franc food pairing — but for different reasons.

vegetarian food with cabernet franc

Remember that pyrazine characteristic? The pyrazines that give the Cabernet Franc its herby and peppery earthiness make it a perfect wine choice for pairing with vegetable-based dishes like a roasted or grilled eggplant dish, tomatoes stuffed with basil, and Brussels sprouts gratin. The earthiness and herb-like taste of the Cabernet Franc will accentuate and really bring out the tastes of those vegetables.

You might even choose a Cab Franc for meals that aren’t fully vegetarian, but still serve it whenever you want to really accentuate the taste and flavor of the roasted or grilled vegetable dishes you’ve included. 


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