A good glass of cab franc is the perfect mix of red raspberry, crushed gravel, herbaceous pepper, and green peppercorns. There are so many aromas and flavors to play with when thinking about pairings. Whether you have a tart fruit cab franc from the Loire Valley or a warming one from sunny California, cabernet franc food pairings can be versatile and downright delicious.
Regional Cab Franc Flavors and Aromas
With French origins, cabernet franc is one of the main stars of the Loire Valley. Here, this dark-skinned grape retains great acidity in the cooler climate, expressing a medium body without obnoxious tannins. It's a mix of red brambly fruit with extra savory characteristics like roasted red pepper, jalapeño, and French herb garden.
Because of the lack of aggressive tannins, it doesn't need to age for years to mellow out, rather its fresh characteristics present quite well in its youth. When aged, more tertiary aromas and complexities begin to develop, and the savory traits become more pronounced, smelling earthy yet fresh, like walking throughout the woods after a rainstorm with more of a dried fruit profile and perhaps a smoky note or two.
In warmer climates, like Italy, California, and Chile, the grape expresses a richer fruit profile with slightly less acidity and slightly higher tannins. Fruit notes can be darker, like black cherry, blackberry, and grilled strawberry. The savory and spiced characteristics remain, with green peppercorn, mint, pickled hot pepper, oregano, and wet stone.
Cabernet Franc Food Pairing Ideas
Once you have a grasp on the flavor profile you're working with, you can then start to think about what pairs well with cabernet franc. There are a handful of aromas and flavors to work with here, from red fruit, to smoky roasty, to fresh green herbaceousness. The acidity in cab franc also makes it easy to pair as it can both hold its own against acidic foods and cut through fattier, richer foods.
Grilled Meats & Vegetables
Grilling is a natural match for cab franc. The smokiness plays into those savory notes of the wine. So fire up the barbeque for chicken, zucchini, lamb burgers, or eggplant. Mimicking the peppery aromas in the wine with a well seasoned steak is a match made in heaven. The medium-body also helps to keep the whole vibe a little lighter, as opposed to a heavy-hitter red like cabernet sauvignon.
Because cab franc is a medium-bodied red, it pairs really well with younger, fresher cheeses. The naturally high acidity in the wine is a great match for the texture of creamy or rich cheese like chèvre, boursin, or camembert.
Any and all roasted vegetables from mushrooms, to tomatoes, to jammy onions are a great pairing. These emphasize the savory characteristics in the wine and make them sing. Think slow cooked white beans in roasted tomato sauce with oregano topped with browned, garlicky bread crumbs. Done and done.
Herbs, Herbs, Herbs
Really doubling down on those herbaceous notes in the wine with big handfuls of fresh-picked garden herbs in your cooking is what brings it all together. Season with oregano, thyme, chervil, sage, or whatever you like. The point is to not be shy - make it herby! Make it semi-spicy too. Use black pepper, Aleppo pepper, or smoked red pepper flakes.
Making That Perfect Match
When it comes to cabernet franc food pairings, don't confine yourself to a box. There is no one right answer or dish that works, rather there are many. So think about the aromas and flavors in the wine and play with similar ones in the food. Charcuterie board anyone?