This question isn’t wholly rhetorical - I’m still undecided. I find it very similar to its Sauvignon offspring, just with a bit less fruit and far less fame. Like Queen Victoria, it seems to have descendents (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Moravia are the first-gen ones that come to mind) scattered across Europe, which somehow seem to have accomplished far more internationally than it ever could. I get very annoyed when Americans (cough cough Wine Folly) refer to Cabernaay of the Sauvignon kind as if it were the only one, but I can’t blame them given how much more widespread it is.
More to the point however, is whether this backseat status is deserved by Cabernet Franc, or on the contrary, whether it should fight back a little more against its ‘noble’ offspring? Incidentally, and full disclosure, Liz and I now make a wine with 85% Cab Sauv so feel free to accuse me of hypocrisy - although, at the end of the day, had the grape-grower offered us Franc instead of Sauv, I think I’d have been just as happy.
As with most varieties, the majority of Cab Francs I have tasted have been rosés, and, if push came to shove, I don’t think I could differentiate between the two. Both Cabs have the same blue flowers-red fruit notes, with very noticeable violets. Vinification, in my experience, outshines varietal differences. The most famous single-varietal Cab that comes to mind is of course Cabernet d’Anjou, which can be either (with Franc the more common). It’s very lovely, but as a delightfully old-fashioned off-dry easy-drinker, it is a poor standard-bearer for Cabernet Franc as a ‘noble’ cépage.
There’s no shortage of excellent Cabernet rosés outside of the Loire either, whether in Bordeaux, the Languedoc, nor indeed in Slovakia (where we make ours). Cab rosés have lovely weight, brilliant but soft red fruit, and fancy blue floral notes. In Clairets, it works very well.
In Bordeaux’s reds, it finds itself, of course, as a classic blending partner in Bordeaux blends, albeit a second tier one after Merlot and Cab Sauv, but certainly more prominently so than Cot or Petit Verdot (let’s not even talk about Carmenere). I tried to prove my point about not particularly caring for Franc-heavy blends with a pseudo-scientific evaluation across all my Bordeaux notes. Unfortunately, the average is 3.16/5, whereas for wines that contain some portion of Cab Franc, it’s 3.27. I was actually a little surprised when I saw this, I was expecting the opposite.
The single-varietal Francs didn’t paint such a clear-cut picture, with a neat average of 3.2 (including non-Bordeaux for sample size reasons). My all-wine average is 3.37, which rather suggests that Cab Franc, either as a monocépage or Bordeaux blending partner, is bringing this number down. Curiously though, I haven’t ever given a dreaded 1 or 2-star rating to a Cab Franc, nor indeed any 5s, which unfortunately confirms suspicions that it’s a rustic but safe bet. I did have a natural Cab Franc that was weeeeeiiiird back in December, but I put that down to the bottle - and at the end of the day, it would appeal to its target audience.
I haven’t really answered my own question. There is definitely some Cab Franc revival going on (for instance @cabfrancchronicles on instagram, https://www.reddit.com/r/wine/comments/mo9cia/stunning_cab_franc_from_chile/), but I’m not certain I’m on board with it or that I’ve seen proof it’s actually going places.