Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Advanced Fruit: Cabernet Franc

My friends all make fun of me because I have two classifications of fruit: regular fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries--the fruits suburban children in the 70s grew up with), and advanced fruit (pretty much everything else).

I don't know why, but fruit just is not my thing. I am pretty sure I didn't taste a cherry (minus Maraschinos in cocktails and on ice cream) until I was over 30. And yes, this does in fact mean I am not a fan of pie. When I got into wine, I had to start tasting advanced fruit--star fruit, litchis, gooseberries, currants, plums.

When it comes to wine, I think Cabernet Franc qualifies as advanced fruit.

After the holidays, when I've had my fill of rich foods and rich wines I find myself gravitating towards Cabernet Franc. It's like a tune-up for your palate. And, a great Cabernet Franc can be a challenging and rewarding wine to drink because it doesn't taste like apples or strawberry jam. Instead, it tastes like some green and red mix of herbs, fruit, and spices.

This year's advanced fruit selection came in the form of the 2006 Clos Saint-Fiacre. ($13.73, Garagiste; I can't seem to find any retailers who stock it) Made with 100% Cabernet Franc, the wine had aromas of cherry and chalk accompanied by hints of green pepper. A satiny texture made the flavors of cherries, stony minerals, and green herbs slide down your throat without any problem. Unlike some Cabernet Francs, which can be a bit aggressive in the green pepper department, this one had a lovely balance between the herbal, fruit, and mineral notes, and I thought it represented excellent QPR as a result.

I had to get on Twitter and ask for food recommendations for this wine, since not everybody likes mushrooms at my house and that's one of the best pairings for Cabernet Franc. Jill from domaine547 said "anything with rosemary," so I took a pork tenderloin, rubbed mustard and brown sugar on it, and then rolled it in rosemary and thyme. I roasted it in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes after searing it in a cast iron fry pan on the stove, and served it along with some wild rice and green beans. All the flavors--the mustard, the rosemary (thanks, Jill!), the green beans, and the earthy rice--went perfectly with the wine.

I finished the meal feeling like my tastebuds had been given a workout with some advanced fruit and that I was ready for whatever the new year brings.


Chris Townend said...

Some of the best advice given to me to me at the start of my WSET course by our excellent tutor was, "...and start sniffing jam pots!" I now sniff jams, conserves, preserves, jellies, chutneys and pickles. This may be accompanied by concerned looks from friends and family, but it certainly helps me lock-in those smell characteristics.

Toot toot!

Arnaud H said...

A useful tip to find ideal pairings for French and Italian wines is often to look up what kind of cuisine is associated with the local wine production.

100% cabernets francs are the signature reds of the central Loire Valley - bourgueils and chinons. Local specialities are goat cheeses, sausages, truffles, mushrooms, etc. They pair well with coq-au-vin (and other poultry dishes), filets mignons, etc. Comfort food!

Rebecca Rethore said...

I love Cab Franc - particularly from the Loire; the earthy, herbal notes just thrill my palate! So yes, anything earthy pairs scrumptiously. Since you're a bit of a foodie too, though, I'm surprised you don't have What to Drink with What you Eat by Dornenburg and Page. It's a handy reference! Otherwise, you can see what you think about using her food/wine matcher. I'm not a full-fledged believer in the tool, but you might find it works for you in a pinch because it is accessible online....

Amy Atwood said...

I agree that Cab Franc is especially refreshing at this time of year.It is also true that this can be a challenging and at times disappointed varietal. With good producers, I love the rhubarb flavors and slight backtaste of iron. And when it hits you just are left jonesing for more. So the hunt starts again.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for all the great suggestions. As for Chris and the suggestion to hit the jam aisle, that's what I ALWAYS tell people. Jam is a wine lover's best friend when it comes to learning advanced fruit.