Cabernet Franc Masters 2024

In our inaugural Global Cabernet Franc Masters competition, judges were delighted to find exquisite expressions from all over the world, making this often underrated variety well worth a look, writes Patricia Stefanowicz MW.

Cabernet Franc is a valuable and ancient variety, probably a ‘wild grape’, or an orphan whose parents, if any, are unknown. Its traditional homeland is southwest France, and its origin has been established as the Basque Country (País Vasco) in Spain. But, more noteworthy to most modern wine consumers, is that Cabernet Franc is itself a parent of famous Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere.

Cabernet Franc deserves respect, not only because of its heritage, but because it produces exceptional wines, as proven by the number of bottles that won Silver, Gold and Master medals in our inaugural Cabernet Franc Masters. This competition kicked off our series of blind tastings in 2024, with exhilarating wines found at every price and from myriad countries. Cabernet Franc is France’s sixth most planted variety, just after Carignan. Its French heartland is the Loire Valley, and the wines we tasted from here are medium-bodied, showing raspberry fruit, gentle oak and accents of violets and lead pencil shavings, with refreshing acidity and satin-textured tannins.

In Bordeaux, particularly on the Right Bank, Cabernet Franc acts an insurance policy against less ripe Cabernet Sauvignon in poor years. Cabernet Franc buds earlier and ripens earlier than both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which means it can be harvested before autumn rains arrive and due to climate change, the grape’s relevance is growing. The best examples of Cabernet Franc-dominated wines show a delicate blackcurrant fruit, often with a red raspberry component, and floral lift.

Our first ever Cabernet Franc Masters presented a few French wines, with one in particular – Paradise Rescued B1ockOne – standing out. A true expression of Bordeaux Cabernet Franc, it has the purity of raspberry and red plum fruit, accented with violet aromatics and a touch of cedar wood. However, most of the wines we judged came from locations outside France, including South America, South Africa and California, with a smattering of wines hailing from Australia, Italy, Turkey and even Kazakhstan.

Under £30, the judges discovered that blends of Cabernet Franc with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Carmenere seem to work best, as Cabernet Franc fills the mid-palate and lends freshness of acidity and more supple tannin texture. Cabernet Franc also adds brightness of fruit and fresh acidity to plummy Merlot. The less expensive wines from Chile, especially, benefit from Cabernet Franc’s ability to ripen more fully than Cabernet Sauvignon, thus showing ripe cassis without overly herbaceous notes. The Argentinian wines at this price display rich blackcurrant fruit without the excessively high alcohol levels sometimes prevalent in very ripe Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wines priced between £30-£50 exhibit a definite step up in quality, and in this price bracket single-varietal Cabernet Franc shines.

Wines in the £50-£70 price bracket sometimes seem overly extracted and over-ambitious, but we tried excellent wines from Australia and South Africa.

Above £70, all the wines judged were superb. Coming from New South Wales, Tuscany, Napa Valley and the Strandja Mountains, these wines have definition of bright fruit flavours, beautifully integrated tobacco or cedarwood, silky texture, great length and complexity.

The judges came away from this Global Masters competition enthused about Cabernet Franc, a variety often undervalued by the wine industry and by consumers. With balance, texture, freshness and well-judged use of oak, these wines should be part of a discerning drinker ’s repertoire.

Unoaked 100% Cabernet Franc

About the competition
With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Global Cabernet Franc Masters provides a chance for your wines to shine. The 2024 competition was judged on 11 January at Novotel London Bridge in London, employing experienced judges. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Cabernet Franc Master. This report features the medal winners only.

Please visit the Global Masters website for more information or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please

Call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420

Email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com