Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cabernet Franc: Love at First Sip

With so much to learn about wine, I could ramble on and on. Instead, I'll try to keep it simple. Let's talk about one of my favorite grapes.

Cabernet Franc. A minor grape in Bordeaux and a fixture in the Loire Valley of central France. According to Wikipedia, "The fact that it is known as Breton in the Loire suggests that it originally came from, which would be consistent with its preference for cooler temperatures."

Speaking of, I love cooler climate wines. I went to a tasting recently that featured Southern Australian and New Zealand wines. They were way more complex than I expected, more restrained than much of the Australian power bombs that you get on the wider market. Sadly, most cool climate producers know the value of their wines, and you have to break into the $20-$30 price point to bring home a gem, but you'll be rewarded for your investment.

Luckily for consumers, Cab Franc is a grape that is frequently looked down upon by the wine elite. Most people are turned off by the vegetal, herbaceous, spicy and peppery flavors that extol this noble variety. In reality, Franc is a good exhibitor of terroir, its relatively light body and tannins permit communion between soil and palate. Alas, for these reasons, Cab Franc is mostly condemned to blending, even as a "single varietal." It is the wild child that tells you how it really feels.

In today's 100-point-scale world, Cab Franc is a rarity among the New World liquid candy. It has taken well to the soils of these new continents; however, and new territory is being explored. I must say that Cab Franc has done surprisingly well here in the Old North State, and I hope it continues to flourish. Without naming names, there are a couple of Yadkin Valley Cab Francs that are on my list. They both offer fresh, complex, peppery aromas and flavors with nice bursts of red fruit; perfect as a summer wine, with red meat fish or spicy foods.

I went to a Loire Valley Tasting recently where I was actually disappointed with most of the Cab Francs presented. That is not to say that all Loire Valley Cab Francs are dismal. I have had very affordable, very tasty wines from this grape's home court. Truth be told, the good ones don't make it out of the Loire.

This is why I love wine. It is the journey, not the destination.

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