Cabernet Franc is best known as the third grape of Bordeaux, and is a key blending partner in most Bordeaux-style blends, sometimes called Claret. It is rarely used to make 100% Cabernet Franc wines, but some producers are playing around with it. Especially in parts of California, Cabernet Franc is showing up in varietal wines. One notable exception is the celebrated Château Cheval-Blanc in Bordeaux, where it is the major grape in that blend.
Cabernet Franc ripens early and is well-suited to cool climates, which has made it important on the right bank of the Gironde, especially in St.-Emilion. It does well in clay soils and is fairly resistant to diseases. It is mainly used for its bright fruitiness, and is a lighter, less tannic version of Cabernet Sauvignon. It tends to bring a green-peppery, leafy character to wines, which can be undesirable if the aromas are strong enough.
It is also very important in the Loire Valley, where it is responsible for some of the region’s best red wines including Bourgueil, St. Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Chinon, and Saumur-Champigny.