All around the world tonight, members of the Wine Century Club will meet, give their secret handshakes, then raise glasses of Lacrima di Morro, Pedro Ximenez, Assyrtiko or other esoteric grapes in an annual, in-person tasting.
Formed five years ago by friend-of-the-blog Steve De Long and his wife Deborah, the club now counts 721 members who have made the quest. I qualified a few years ago. And I give out the sheet in my classes as a fun challenge to participants.
What exactly is the challenge? To drink wines made from the grapes of 100 grape varieties. It may sound easy at first but I have seen many people hit a wall around 70 varieties and then start scouring their cities for tastings of Greek, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese wines (since all those countries have abundant grape varieties). Some members have gotten so into it that there are now doppel-centurions, a treble- and even a quadruple-centurion!
It’s a fun quest to get out of your wine rut, celebrate diversity, or just to learn more about wine. Check out the application materials here to get cracking tonight. There’s no cost to join and you even get a free certificate on qualification. I raise a glass of poulsard to those who give it a shot!
Writing in Friday’s Globe and Mail of Toronto, Beppi Crosariol, the paper’s wine columnist, weighs in on the topic of Cabernet Franc. Provocatively, he writes “Most cabernet francs resemble red sangria that has been steeped with bell peppers and unlit cigarettes instead of fruit, but I’ve found three Canadian ones I like very much.”
He’s not a fan of the grape. Talking about the two top growing areas in the Loire, Chinon and Bourgueil, he writes, ironically: “Virtually all the people I know who rave about Chinon and Bourgueil are wine geeks, the kind of people who champion varieties nobody else does precisely because nobody else does. You can find many of these same people downloading unsigned artists to their iPods.”
Funny, I like great Chinon and Bourgueil but I’ve never downloaded an unsigned artist to my iPhone! I just like them for the low alcohol, high acidity for food friendliness, and the low prices–the “undiscovered” discount. Take the delicious but, yes, slightly herbaceous, Domaine Guion, Cuvee Prestige 2006, which I just bought for about $12.50 (with case discount)–a tasty bargain if there ever were one, but certainly not one for fruit bomb lovers.
I tweeted about the article at 8:56 AM today and the responses came flooding in; here is a selection. (Follow along on Twitter) If you haven’t weighed in, do you love or hate Cabernet Franc? Which actor is the most apt comparison?
gonzogastronomy @drvino ouch! I happen to love cab franc!
candidwines @drvino Your Cab Franc critic cites “cedar, tobacco + vanilla” in the CF he loves. My description of him: “Starts w/ J, rhymes w/ mackass”.
Randall Grahm @drvino There are truly 2 populations of wine drinkers, those who love and those who detest cab franc. One generally wishes to avoid latter
voxinferior RT @gonzogastronomy: @drvino ouch! I happen to love cab franc! (I like it too, but there’s some pretty legit. criticism in that piece)
James Molesworth @RandallGrahm @drvino Cab Franc is an acquired taste. Acquired at birth or never…
Howard Goldberg @RandallGrahm @drvino When I think of cabernet sauvignon, I think of Catherine Deneuve. And when I think of cabernet franc, Lauren Bacall.
candidwines @drvino @RandallGrahm Overcropped, machine harvested Cab Franc is to real CF as January tomatoes are to garden heirlooms: worlds apart.
theconcierge @drvino I think the ‘Globe and Mail’ statement on Cabernet Franc is harsh, there are bad wines made with any varietals
Randall Grahm @howardggoldberg @drvino Deneuve is Burgundy; Bruce Willis is Bordeaux. But I like the smoky, peppery Bacall association w/ cab franc
Randall Grahm @jmolesworth1 @drvino @howardggodberg What gets me is the absolute vehemence of cab franc’s detractors. But francly, I don’t give a damn
megmaker @RandallGrahm @howardggoldberg @drvino Agree Cab Franc is Bacall, or maybe K Hepburn: throaty, acerbic – but what a woman.
tallywineguy @drvino I think pinotage is more divisive than CF. RT There r 2 populations of wine drinkers, those who love & those who detest Cab F
Over on Forbes.com, I just contributed a short piece about the wines of Vouvray. Almost entirely, the wines of Vouvray are from the Chenin Blanc grape and Vouvray is in many ways the apogee of Chenin Blanc. The wines from this 5,000 acre appellation can be very rewarding, as a sparkling wine or dry, off-dry, and sweet. Moreover, the best examples are extremely age-worthy and global warming has made them more accessible in their youth.
My thoughts drifted to regional rival, Suavignon Blanc, which is considered one of the three “noble” white grapes (Riesling and Chardonnay are the others). I’ve never really cottoned to the whole aristocratic anthropomorphism for grape varieties but if I were drawing it up today, I’d prepare Sauvignon for a defenestration in favor of Chenin. Let’s measure it up:
Multiple expressions (sparkling to sweet)? Chenin has the edge
Multiple layers of complexity in the glass? Chenin
The top examples of each? Chenin has the edge
More accessible when young? Sauvignon
More popular? Sauvignon
Ability to be planted more widely? Sauvignon
Have your say in the latest poll! (note: selecting two responses is possible)