Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Experimenting Chilean Perez Cruz Cabernet Franc with Five (Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty and Umami) Tasty Meat (#WinePW)

When I was working in Fox Hollow, a Central New Jersey winery, which produces an award-winning Cabernet Franc in the fall last year, a lot of customers often asked me to pour them a glass of “Cab”. When I asked “Cab Sauvignon” or “Cab Franc”, some customers gave me an uneasy grin and scrambled to respond by saying “Cab” again.  To avoid pouring the wrong wine and offend customers by asking the same question again, I simply assumed they meant, “Cabernet Sauvignon” (Fox Hollow also produces a top-notched Cab Sauvignon) and promptly presented a glass of “Cab” with a big smile. Cab Franc hasn’t been given a centerstage status quo due to its common use in blending. As the third mostly grown grape variety in Bordeaux, Cab Franc is often blended with Cab Sauvignon and Merlot, which yields signature red Bordeaux style that is sought after globally. When it sells, why change it? In the lesser known French regions and New World, Cab Franc, a hidden gem in the red wine market, is given the chance to be recognized for its true beauty and own identity.  

Cab Franc in fact is one of the parents, with the accidental marriage with Sauvignon Blanc, giving birth to Cab Sauvignon.  Like many real-life stories, while the successful off-spring, Cab Sauvignon, has been transplanted and revived far and near around the world to become an immensely popular red wine on its own. Cab Franc, to be produced as a single-grape wine, is less sought after by wine makers and stands far from the spotlight. Wendy Klik’s Cab Franc #WinePW invite is a great opportunity for us to venture outside the “Cab” Sauvignon comfort zone, and truly explores the possibility of a bottle of good Cab Franc and embraces its elegance.  

Cab Franc is excellent for food and wine pairings.  Its dominant flavors are red berries, vegetal, earthy and herbaceous, often coupled with light-medium body, balanced style and bright acidity and milder texture. Whether it is red meat, chicken or root vegetables, the quaffable and versatile qualities of Cab Franc often won’t disappoint. Chilean Perez Cruz Cab Franc 2015 Limited Edition can undoubtedly showcase the dominant traits of a typical Cab Franc. What is more is that this Cab Franc also reflects the terroir of inland Maipo Alto Valley, mountainous climate of Chile.  Maipo Alto Valley is at foothills of the Andes mountains, making the zone particularly good for viticulture because they produce a great contrast in temperature between day and night. The climate, combined with the poor, loose, porous, and rocky soil, puts the vines under stress which in turn produces memorable red wines such as Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon.

The tasting profile of Perez Cruz Cab Franc is pictorially captured by my Instagram post as follows:
"Wine of Chile...this impressive Perez Cruz single-vineyard Cabernet Franc limited edition is an elegant Cab Franc🍷 that smells like mahogany and pencil shaving ✏️on the nose - showcasing the balance between oak and terroir⛰. The classic palate of this grape varietal is highlighted - medium-tannin with notes of dried shiitake mushroom, dark chocolate 🍫and a subtle hint of tingling dark cherry note that mimics cherry-flavored cough drop. The finish is long and memorable, leaving visible legs on the glass. Charmed by its beauty, a red that you would pour, swirl and sip...until the last drop."

Believe it or not…as much as I like how this Cab Franc tastes, I love how it smells even more, the woodiness is tangible and is encapsulated in your nostrils – dry bark on a pine tree or sprouting mushrooms grown on a fallen log in the wilderness! After a couple of the quick sips, to loosen up the bouquet and widen the aromas even more, we used a simple aerator to filter the wine into the glass…

Maximizing the enjoyment of this Cab Franc, I’m experimenting strip steaks that are marinated in different sauces, highlighting the four tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter separately, plus a drunken Cornish hen that completes the fifth taste, umami. Without going into too much scientific deep-dive, simply put, the five basic tastes are manifested through the taste buds distributed on the tongue.       
Photo courtesy of Ajinomoto 
Photo courtesy of Create Play Travel 

Overall, to prep for my pairing experiment, a piece of strip steak was marinated in the chosen sauces for around half an hour - a short marinating time to allow the steak developing a lighter touch of sauces but still retaining the texture and natural taste of the beef. Pan-sear the steak to medium-rare, cut in strips and serve.

Sweet – Duck Sauce and Hoisin Sauce:
While duck sauce is the diluted Chinese marmalade and is typically used as the dipping sauce (as accompanied with the Chinese take-out) for spring roll or roasted ducks, it can be used for cooking dishes like sweet and sour chicken or as a substitute of sugar. Hoisin sauce, as most people know, has a rich syrup taste/texture that mimics molasses plus a tad tanginess and saltiness.  I pan-seared the steak (all surfaces of the steak) in high-heat in the cast iron pan and saw a nice dark crust formed outside the steak very quickly due to caramelization of the sugary sauces. 
😀😀(out of a max of 3 happy faces)Did the “sweet” work well with the Cab Franc? Yes, it did. The subtle dark chocolate and dark cherry notes of the wine work really well with the lightly sweetened steak. The wine tastes more tannic in a nice way that presents even richer texture and mouthfeel.
Sour – A 1 sauce /Steak sauce
A1 sauce is a classic condiment to steak, a sauce that has a predominant vinegary/sour profile, comprising of tomato puree, distilled vinegar and crushed orange puree, plus spices and other crushed vegetables to add the complexity. I personally like the original A1 or this knock-off “Steak Sauce” from my local grocery store in lieu of the popular peppery version of the sauce.
😀😀Did the “sour” work well with the Cab Franc? Yes, it did. The Cab Franc’s trademark characteristics (e.g., balanced, elegance) showcase really well as the Steak-sauce tenderized steak becomes even softer and less fatty/meaty. A hint of vinegar, as you bite into the steak, also accentuates the bright acidity of this Cab Franc.

Salty – Fish Sauce and Vegetarian stir-fry Sauce
Either Fish Sauce or Stir-fry Sauce alone is quite salty and just one sauce along can sufficiently substitute any salt. When moderate amount of each sauce combined, this hybrid is salty yet with so much depth in tastes that are brought out by the mushroom flavor, preserved fish and brininess.  The steak, after being marinated, is full of rich flavors that actually requires a dash of black pepper to brighten it up.
😀😀😀Did the “salty” work well with the Cab Franc? Yes, it truly did. In fact, this is the most taste-enhancing pairing in my liking as the dried shiitake note of the Cab Franc even comes out more...after a bite of the salty steak!

Bitter – Brewed Dark-Roast Coffee and Dark Soya Sauce
Bitterness is a tough taste to charm every person. I asked many people to try sliced bitter melon and beef stir-fry (featured in my Pre-cooked Chinese Dishes blog). I would say most people don’t like it. It’s too bitter and is an acquired taste - if you don’t have it incorporated in your taste profile since you were young, it’s a tough hurtle to overcome. But with this “bitter” steak, both brewed dark roast coffee and dark soya sauce leave the steak with a smoke-flavor that resembles grilled steak on a charcoal grill. The residual bitterness from the coffee is noticeable but not forefront. In fact, I would switch to a cup of expresso next time for my liking.
😀😀😀Did the “bitter” work well with the Cab Franc? Yes, it definitely did. As complex and big-flavor as this Cab Franc tastes and feels, the bottom line is this is still a food-friendly wine – pan-searing, grilling or sautéing, without overpowering with sauce, is a compatible cooking method to this wine.

Well, umami is a savory taste that has the characteristics of broths and cooked meats. When people taste umami, it’s their taste receptors that typically respond to glutamate which is widely present in meat and bone broths and fermented products like fermented tofu paste. To showcase umami, I have prepared a drunken chicken - a defrost Cornish hen cooked in a boiling ginseng herbal broth and finished with added Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing).  To prepare the broth, I used a pouch of ready-to-drink red ginseng energy drink that can be purchased from a Korean grocery store, and added a few anise, Sichuan peppercorns, sliced gingers and scallion. Once the broth comes to a boil, put the Cornish hen in the broth. After it boils up, turn the heat down to medium for another 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat, taste the broth and add salt per your taste accordingly. Add at least one cup of Shaoxing wine to the pot and let the chicken sit in the pot for another 2 hours. I personally put in two cups of Shaoxing wine so I can really taste the wine. Once the broth and chicken are completely cooled off, you can put it in the fridge to have more taste to develop or to serve at room temperate. 
😀😀Did the “umami” work well with the Cab Franc? Yes, it did. The Cab Franc's subtle note of cherry cough drop works well with the medicinal broth. The taste of Shaoxing wine, which is a rice-based and grainy, in the chicken doesn't contradict the Cab Franc, and leaves a rich warm-spice flavor after each bite.  

There is definitely a lot of cooking for this pairing. But when you have a charmer like the Perez Cruz Cab Franc, you only want to be ambitious and max out the possibility that wines and food can offer!

#WinePW - Enjoy more Cab Franc Line-ups below:

Next month, we'll be looking at biodynamic wines from all over the world. See Gwen Alley's Invite here!


  1. This was the perfect experiment and I'm so glad you shared it with us.

  2. Thanks Wendy. It was indeed a fun and delicious pairing!

  3. Both of these pairings look so good! YUM! (And thanks so much for kind note on my post. Wonderful that you got to meet Tom.)

  4. Thanks. I really enjoyed these Cab Franc pairings

  5. What a fun and delicious experiment! I volunteer to be a "taster" at the next such event. :-) Each of your sauces sounds wonderful, bringing out different notes in the wine. So glad you joined us this month!

  6. Thanks Lauren. I’m wondering if we all #WinePW bloggers can meet one day, tasting food and wines. For my pairings, I already have all the sauces. Once I have the idea to do the 5 tastes, it’s a matter of execution. Thanks for fixing the final HTML.

  7. looks like you did a good experiment! Shows the versatility of Cab Franc.

  8. Thanks David. I really like my Cab Franc and was glad to pair it with different flavors.

  9. I'm so happy you joined our group Pinny! The fascinating recipes you suggest make me want to think more creatively with regards to the food and wine pairings. Thank you! And the Chilean Cab Franc is a surprise! Well done:) Cheers!

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