simplicity, considered

Sure, 95 course meals and 48 week Tahitian vacations are great and all, but it’s really appreciating the simpler things that gets us all through (i’ll use cliches to get my point if i want to. There’s no stopping me.)

Sometimes it’s stopping and realizing you’re actually looking at a great blue heron, sometimes it’s turning on the car radio in the morning and being greeted with Zapp and Rogers instead of Creed (believe me when I say that Bounce to the Ounce can beat even the worst 101 traffic), and sometimes it’s a wine.

Last week i quickly threw something together from my current cookbook obsession, The Foods and Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas. The book itself is a marvel of simplicity of preparation, perfect for midweek cooking. A quick look at my “cellar” confirmed that I had no Spanish wine to speak of (i need to remedy this situation soon as i’ve been cooking plenty of Spanish food). So I went with my recent standby, cabernet franc. At first i opened a bottle of 1999 Joguet Clos de la Dioterie, but that was dead and gone, all that was left was acid and oak, like the remains of some great fire. So instead i went with a bottle of Catherine and Pierre Breton’s 2006 “Franc de Pied.”

At first the wine was badly reduced, but patience, if it is nothing else, is one of the key elements of appreciation. For those of you unfamiliar, franc de pied (or pie franco in Italian) refers to ungrafted rootstock. In some soil, specifically sandy soil, growing franc de pied vines is ok, as the soil is not hospitable to phylloxera. Grown in other soils, franc de pied is a huge gamble. The reson that this gamble is taken is that franc de pied wines are a much different expression than those of grafted rootstock (Levi Dalton will be continuing his excellent series of theme dinners at Convivio with a showcase of franc de pied wines and their grafted counterparts tommorow night). These particular vines are planted in the “les Galichets” vineyard, which is the heart of the Breton operation in the Bourgueil appellation.

Once the wine opened up i immediately got the sense that the Breton’s get cabernet franc. There is nothing dressed up about this wine, only something (dare i say it?) essential. The joy comes not from the complexity of the wine, but from the simplicity, the straight lines of the expression versus ornamentation. It is wine that wants to be drank, not mulled over, sensual, not intellectual. Such a rare quality in anything, this simplicity.

Notes: Thanks to everyone who responded to my last post, especially Scott Reiner, Eric Asimov, Manuel Camblor, Jim Budd and Mike Dunne who took the time and blog space to mull over what i had to say.

The new Chocolate Bobka mix is up here:

Congrats to Hardy Wallace on the new gig with Kevin Kelley at the NPA. Both Kevin and Hardy have helped out here at ol’ saignee and we wish them good luck going forward.

Question of the post: I’m currently looking for the perfect Bahn Mi in San Jose. Recommendations?

~ by Cory Cartwright on February 16, 2010.

6 Responses to “simplicity, considered”

  1. Simplicity maybe, clarity definitely.

    My first foray into franc de pied wines as surely one of those eye opening, watershed, ah ha moments, “So this is what Cabernet Franc tastes like.” Quite akin to one of those Claritin commercials or watching ice hockey in HD for the first time. All the veils are removed, there is no wading through various undertones, mulling over secondaries – its all very primary.

    The thing I come away with after drinking franc de pied wines side by side with their grafted brethren is where is the talk of root stock? We are constantly bombarded but talk of this clone and that clone, where is the current research on root stock?

  2. will miss you tomorrow, i’m bringing the breton 07…

  3. Cory- Thanks for the shout out. Working with Kevin is going to be amazing. Getting back to gettin’ dirty!

  4. That Dalto guy is overrated.

  5. The research on root stock is going on at Washington State University. See, for example, We haven’t found any evidence that there’s a difference in own-rooted vs grafted, but trials are in their early days yet. Washington state, of course, is entirely own-rooted.

  6. If you are cooking from Penelope Casas’ book and want a Breton-esque wine from Spain to go with the food, check out Corias or Goliardo from Jose Pastor Selections. His Ribeira Sacra region wines are also great in that cool climate/old vine way.

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