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Cabernet Franc is the Zeus (or Hera) of the grape world

Now that you have exhaustively ingested the well–put, concise and worthwhile content heretofore expressed (oh, how lawyerly), you have reached the Winepress Northwest cure for insomnia.

As usual, I will try to fly below the editor’s radar as to saucy content, but when you read about our next guest, Cabernet Franc, you will agree that this often-thought less powerful opponent to other red wine counterparts is a real stud.

If you look in my last edition’s infliction of literary punishment, I noted that Cabernet Sauvignon was the muscular offspring of Cabernet Franc. Well, get this: Cabernet Franc is also the Casanova (or Cleopatra) that sired (or birthed) Merlot and Carmenere. I can’t help making these references to promiscuity. Cabernet Franc is the Zeus (or Hera) of the grape world!

In spite, however, of lending its genetic code to so many great grapes, Cabernet Franc is still thought of as something less powerful than some other red wine varieties. How it’s grown, more than any other grape that I know of, determines what the final outcome will be. Short cropping most often eliminates its delicacy, sometimes to its detriment, but grown in a cooler climate and allowed a normal crop level, Cabernet Franc brightly shines.

Gotta tell ya….I have divided loyalties with Cabernet Franc. I love Cabernet Franc, from where it started in the right bank of the Gironde River in Bordeaux, France, and Loire, France where it was carted to and planted about the time we became a nation. From there, like most well-known varieties, Cabernet Franc took the world tour, so you will find it most places where grapes grow. I love the Cabernet Franc from France, New York, British Columbia and Croatia, along with the people and food in those great places. You really should stretch out and try Cabernet Franc from these areas. Go there and experience the food, people and style of Cabernet Franc that cannot be duplicated.

One of the characteristic components of Cabernet Franc is its peppery, perfumy, spicy, herbal character that some folks call a flaw. It’s actually a virtue that sets it apart from other varieties. When I smell properly cropped Cabernet Franc, I smell lavender herb, sweet spices, violets and red licorice. If you whittle the crop down to a couple of tons per acre, or over-oak it, you can virtually eliminate some of this delicious and idiosyncratic character. Raspberry, red currant and bell pepper are frequent descriptors, so it is little wonder that it is ready for a party with food or otherwise.

Isn’t that I don’t enjoy Cabernet Franc in a richer and less classic style. It’s just that I don’t think that the consuming public should be prejudiced by a stylistically different wine. It’s the reason why I enjoyed the more robust Maryhill and Basel, and the more classic herbal-style presented in the Barrister and Alexandria Nicole that you read about in this edition from the Platinum competition.

Let’s talk about this strong/weak thing. Is a sprinter that blisters 100 meters stronger than a marathon runner? Strengths can be measured in numerous ways. Finesse is a strength that some wines never achieve, however, Cabernet Franc, is one that can. Complexity is another component of strength that you can count on with Cabernet Franc. It’s the difference between weightlifting and yoga or football and dance. Hey, you ‘wake?

So often we have a tendency to pick the powerful wine to drink only to be disappointed when that’s all we taste with dinner. I find myself often torn between the type of wines I like to drink without food and those with. There’s nothing like an overpoweringly rich wine to excite the senses. And we sometimes are convinced that stronger is better. It isn’t that you can’t have a good time with a sturdy Cabernet Franc; go ahead, dance with an NFL lineman. Actually, I love rich cheese or a cigar with a muscle-bound Cabernet Franc. I just find it more enjoyable to eat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (for those younger than 60, Google them).

Cabernet Franc is tough beyond having apparent reproductive proclivity and endurance. It’s more winter hardy than most grapes, so our friends in growing areas where a polar episode can put you out of business, are provided some assurances of fruit. It ripens earlier than its baby gorilla, Cabernet Sauvignon, so extended hang time can beef up its color and mouth feel if that is the goal.

Did I say beef?

Yes, Cabernet Franc goes very well with beef, in particular Bourguignon (I think that’s French for stew), and good old BBQ. It also goes with complex chicken dishes like Coq au Vin (crockpot chicken here in America) and most any critter you cook with savory herbs like oregano and thyme. Its acidity is the key to making food harmony for me. But then again, what the heck do I know? Pork Steak with butter-sautéed Fuji apples and onions are so doggone good with Cabernet Franc, but that meal is good with any wine. Frankly, I am not really picky when it comes to Cabernet Franc and food….it is the universal red wine antidote to food pairings.

I will let you get back to your nap now. My subjective love for Cabernet Franc is for borrow. Just find a chum, grab a BLT, open a bottle of Cabernet Franc and drink it in moderation….frequently.

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