Cabernet Franc: A Rising Star in Margaret River

Cabernet Franc: A Rising Star in Margaret River

If you have ever tried a Bordeaux blend, it is likely you will have tasted a smidgen of Cabernet Franc (cab-err-nay fronk).

In a wine world where ripeness is easy to conjure but freshness and balance less so, Cabernet Franc is coming into its own, with the variety producing fragrant and graceful wines that appeal in youth when handled properly.

Cabernet Franc is often thought of as a blending grape that helps these Bordeaux blends – usually led by a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon – triumph, while it sits quietly in the shadows. 

One of the six red grapes allowed in Bordeaux blended wine, Cabernet Franc is usually used in small amounts alongside Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot to make these world-renowned blends, with Cabernet Sauvignon the dominant variety in the majority of this style of wine in Australia.

However Cabernet Franc as a standalone produces some complex yet delicious wines that are actually very approachable on release, thanks to softer tannins, a medium body and inviting aromatics.

The variety is believed to be France's oldest red wine grape, and while prominent in Bordeaux, it is in the Loire Valley – where it was first planted 700 years ago – that it takes centre stage, showing increasing richness, vibrancy and potential to age.

Here in Australia, the variety is also starting to come into its own, nowhere moreso than in Margaret River, where several winemakers are now planting and producing epic standalone Cabernet Francs.

The Deep Woods Estate interpretation shows how the variety can thrive in the South West region, which shares a similar Mediterranean climate to Bordeaux.

First made by Chief Winemaker Julian Langworthy (pictured above) in 2018, the Deep Woods Estate Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc is produced from a tiny 0.4 hectare plot from the estate's original 1987 plantings.

Julian has made this wine in the modern style, with delicacy and upfront fruit in mind, while still retaining classic varietal flavours of red fruit, bramble and crushed gravel.

"The thing I love about Cabernet Franc from Margaret River is the the medium-bodied drinkability," he said on the eve of the 2022 release.

"We release the wine early because there is so much joy in the bright, crunchy red fruit characters we get with it.

"But it's a serious wine and it's got serious drinkability, which is nice."

Julian says the decision to release a single vineyard Cabernet Franc from the tiny plantings at Deep Woods Estate was an easy one.

"It's nice to be able to show the variety on its own like that, and let it shine," he said.

"The first time we released the wine was in 2018 and it's really to do with a couple of things; firstly we like to offer it only at cellar door – it's not sold anywhere else in the market – and it's also a wine our staff like to drink and that our members can get hold of.

"That's part of the reason why we only make it it in years where it has a lovely quality (the 2022 release is only the third since 2019)."

When it comes to flavour profile and how the Margaret River variety differs from Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, Julian says the Deep Woods Estate Cabernet Franc offers the best of both those worlds.

"We are sort of bridging the gap in that regard ... it has a lovely fruit weight without using too much oak, so we sort of have a foot in both camps," he said.

"We get that plush fruit reminiscent of Bordeaux but also the fresh drinkability you find in Loire Valley Cabernet Franc."

Fun fact

Cabernet Franc is actually the parent grape of common Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and hails from the Basque region in France, close to the Spanish border, from where it was a short hop for the vine to travel to Bordeaux and, from there, an easy boat ride up the Atlantic coast to the Loire.


The crunchy fruit profile and medium bodied style of Cabernet Franc make it a wine that pairs excellently with food. It tends to go well with dishes flavoured with herbs, such as dill, fennel and rosemary, and also has an affinity with green vegetables, especially grilled, roasted or stuffed. You can't go wrong with any of these alongside a protein-based meat such as lamb, chicken or steak.


Deep Woods Estate 2022 Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc
“I’ve always wanted to make a single vineyard Cabernet Franc from the original Deep Woods Estate plantings. We hand-picked and hand-sorted a tiny quantity of the best fruit from Block 6 to make our 100% Cab Franc. Made in a vibrant, modern style, this wine is highly perfumed, complex, has a generous palate and fine, velvety tannins.”
– Deep Woods Estate Chief Winemaker Julian Langworthy


2022 was a truly exceptional vintage in Margaret River. The season started beautifully with a wet spring and late flowering, followed by a warm and dry season, producing wines of refined flavour, great elegance and real personality.  


Deep Woods Estate 2020 Single Vineyard Cabernet Malbec
"This is a sensational wine, impossibly intense and saturated with flavour, and the volume is boosted in 2020. Decant it, because the frisky malbec needs the oxygen to calm it down. It'll live an age, though."
– 96 Points, Erin Larkin, Halliday Wine Companion

Deep Woods Estate 2020 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot
"2020 was a glorious vintage and it's here for all to see. Structural, dense, concentrated and broody, the length of flavour tails out through the long finish – in fact, far longer than any $35* wine has any business being." 
(*Please note this wine is $40).
– 94 Points, Erin Larkin, Halliday Wine Companion

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published