THE TRULY NOBLE CABERNET--AND IT'S NOT THE ONE YOU'RE THINKING OF
You know, I get that people love Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a full flavored, often densely-textured wine that is high on the yummy scale. The thing that I never understood is what makes it a “noble” variety?
I may have just come into wine too late to experience those great rustic, rugged, powerful Cabernets of the past that everyone over a certain age speaks about. The Cabernet Sauvignons of today are all too often plush, juicy, chocolate-laden wines with thick bodies and soft-ish finishes. Easy enough to suck back for sure, but what can you eat with that, and what are they going to taste like with a few years in the cellar?
I’ve seen professionals taste a big-in-a-juicy-fruit-way Cabernet Sauvignon and say things like, “It needs a few years.”
A few years to do what? Oak tannin doesn’t really soften. In fact, with time, I have tasted nothing but wood tannin in an aged once-rich wine, no more fruit, or very little of it, and harsh, bitter, wood tannin. You really want your juicy wine turning into bitter wood juice? I think those juicy Cabernet Sauvignons should be consumed young and enjoyed for their lusciousness. But at the table, I think there is a better wine to accompany our meals.
Let me introduce you to Cabernet Franc.
There is no better place to taste the purity of what I believe to be a truly noble variety than France’s Loire Valley, where Cabernet Franc comfortably resides. These wines are very fine, elegant, firmly structured, and they just play so damn nicely with food. Something about the wines' reserved textures and slightly savory flavors seem to lift even things as simple as a grilled steak to a whole other level. The acidity in the wines cut the fattiness of meat, and the flavor of the meat brings out the fruit in the wines. Harmonious pairings are easy to be found with a bottle of Loire Cabernet Franc on the table.
Think about the flavor of meat. It is a big, rich flavor, so how do you best frame that flavor? With more big and rich? That is like drinking chocolate milk with pudding, just too much. What is needed, and more balanced, is a wine that is reserved, refreshing, and has enough acidity, (not tannin) to lift that richness right off your palate, leaving you ready for another bite.
While these wines may not hit that “sweet spot” for cocktail-style consumption (but truthfully, once you have grown accustomed to the acidity, they become craveable), they are a far more food-friendly than the currently more prestigious Cabernet Sauvignon. Not to mention they are WAY more affordable!
Oh, and on a side note, when Cabernet Sauvignon asks, "Who's my daddy?" Cabernet Franc steps forward and says, "I am your father," as Cabernet Sauvignon was created by crossing Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Pretty noble if you ask me.
Bring on the grilled steaks, spring lamb, and the last of the slow-cooked, richly-braised foods. We have the perfect wine to showcase, (not lambast) those flavors. Discover the nobility of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc.
Chateau de Miniere is located in Touraine which is in the Loire Valley. A natural wine made from 100% Cabernet Franc this pale pink bubbly is full of lift and vigor. Very floral on the nose with just a touch of spice. The finish is clean and has a pop of citrus on the end.
This dry, sparkling red wine can really through people for a loop. Dark red wine made from Cabernet Franc that drinks like still red, but it has bubbles. You want to chill it as you would any sparkling. I love this wine with pizza, cured meats, duck, dim sum and even grilled sausages. So much fun as it gives you the impression of red wine but with the refreshment of cold sparkling.
Look out, Provence; Loire Valley is coming for you. The past two or three vintages of Rose have had us raising an eyebrow at the complex, beguiling and truly different Roses that France’s Loire Valley has to offer, we are telling you, Provence better ease up in the over cropping and production or they might be tossed from the throne. Made from 100%Cabernet Franc there are some sexy, wild aromatics here intermingled with root veggies and purple flowers. Dry and long.
While the village of Chinon is far more well known I find that the wines of neighboring Bourgueil, (pronounced like poor-boy, bore-goy) to be just a touch lighter handed and a tad less astertive on tannin. Here you find lovely plum fruit, dried herbs and beet root on the nose. Earthy on the palate but with such precise lift from acidity, just smelling this wine makes you hungry. Fantastic with grilled meats and veggies.
Don’t be alarmed if you have never heard of Cabernet Breton, I had not either but then I learned it is just a local dialect for Cabernet Franc. All organic, biodynamic and vegan. I was struck by the wild aromas here, herbal, cracked pepper, and tangy red fruit. You can almost smell the energy here. Light and breezy on the palate, and at 10-13% it is perfect for a quick chill and to serve with a early dinner or late lunch. Think crunchy bistro wine.
What I love about this wine, like others from the same region, is its ability to open up once it gets a little air, like a peacock unfurling its colorful train, especially when consumed with red meat or cheese. There is a dark magenta color that is nearly opaque. The aroma offers a typical Chinon earthiness, with some high notes. Medium in weight, the wine has flavors of crushed dark berries with a bit of tannic grip. The finish is somewhat juicy, with a tangy-tart lift. Imagine the freshness of a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, only dark and berry-flavored. Lightly chillable, too. Keep that in mind this summer when you are grilling. --Randy Kemner
While the Baudry family has been cultivating grapes since the 1300s, the Baudry-Dutour estate dates only from 2003, as a partnership between Christophe Baudry (whose uncle is Chinon legend Bernard Baudry) and enologist and master viticulturist Jean Martin Dutour. Dutour oversees all the estate’s organic vineyards and winemaking, using indigenous yeasts, and never fines of filters the estate’s wines. The charming Le Pin shows off the talents of these artisans with an aroma of pure dark fruit followed by a blackberry flavor that is so easy-going, it practically swallows itself. --Randy Kemner
This is a very natural Loire Valley Cabernet Franc from the village of Saumur-Champigny. A bit wild in the nose, it embraces its earthy nature and runs with it in this wine. Bell peppers, beets, dried herbs and violet all over the nose. Light and easy in the palate with plenty of mouth watering acidity which make it perfect for the dinner table. Beautiful balance and a wonderful representation of classic Loire Valley Cabernet Franc.
A young vine cuvee from, Legrand, this is a wine that is aged in stainless steel which preserves its freshness and showcases the wines vibrancy. Tart red fruit, currents and just a hint of root vegetable. Juicy and friendly with soft tannin. My favorite pairing with this wine is simple seared steak and a side of white beans loaded with sage. So gulpable.