How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cabernet Franc

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I have never had a very impressive palate for wine.  Most of the time I can tell what I like and what I don't like, and from time to time I can be lucky enough to pick up on one of those elusive aromas wine geeks are always talking about.  "Blackberry," usually.  Sometimes "pepper."  I have never really had the best of luck with tobacco, leather, pit fruits, flowers, duck fat, or any of those other weird things that people pick up in wine flavors.  But I am sure they are there.  I have seen people identify wine regions, grapes, alcohol content, and other impressive things by taste alone, and there is one isolated case where I usually can do a good job, too.

It was a bottle of 2007 RoxyAnn Claret that first made me stop and think about this interesting flavor I was tasting.  I think I would describe it as "peppery," but what I knew for sure was that it was delicious.  It was a flavor I ran into frequently in Claret-style wines, and I just couldn't figure out what it was.  Clarets were delicious, but usually rather expensive.  Why did they taste so good?  Was I just paying for quality?  These questions plagued me, and obviously deserved some investigation.  So I put on my favorite battered fedora, pulled out my magnifying glass, and grabbed some Riedel stemware, and began to work on this puzzle.
Claret is an English term for red wines from the Bordeaux region of France.  It's most fun to pronounce when butchered in the classic English manner, like CLAIRE-ut, though you hear lots of folks trying to give it a continental spin and calling it clu-REY or claire-ET.  Butcher it like a Brit and you'll feel better.  I promise you, it's not really a French word.  Anyhow, clarets are blends, and can contain Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.  When I began my investigation, I already had a great idea what Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tasted like, and though I had tried Malbecs many times in the past, I didn't really have a clear memory of them.  I hadn't heard of Petit Verdot, and certainly hadn't heard any local wineries talking about it when discussing their clarets.

My suspicions, therefore, immediately fell on Cabernet Franc.  I went in search of it, and found my wine ambrosia.  The 2006 Cabernet Franc from Abacela almost brought a tear to my eye.  And I found more.  Every blend containing a Cabernet Franc shined like the light of revelation upon my palate, and I reveled in the flavor.  And now, over time, I have discovered that it's still pretty much the only varietal I can pick out of a lineup, and the only grape I can taste in a blend.

I am still trying to accept that I'll never have a good wine palate.  To develop it would take lots of work, lots of dedication, and probably lots of money.  And I do like wine; it is a great and refreshing drink when I need a break from beer.  It does such wonders for the palate and the digestion that frequently I think it does better with food than beer does, and nothing beats a bottle of wine while watching French New Wave or Italian neo-realist cinema, a subject we will be covering later on this week.

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