By Vincent Wynant, Summerfields Sommelier
It’s a known fact: wine and food are made to match. But not all combinations work, so I’m out to see what does. I believe that wine pairing is based firstly on experimentation, then backing it up with science. Here’s the perfect pairing with Hermanuspietersfontein Swartskaap Cabernet Franc (isn’t that a mouthful) and our delicious Summerfields duck with bordelaise lentils, roast beetroot, potato confit and forest berry juice.
Firstly, let’s learn a bit about Cabernet Franc (CF), to make it easier. You might know how Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) tastes? Well , I would describe it as his sister. It is subtly fragrant and gently flirtatious rather than massively muscular and tough in youth. CS has more of everything – body, tannin, alcohol, colour – it is often supposed to be necessarily superior, but personally I have a soft spot for its more charming and more aromatic relative, Cabernet Franc. This is probably related to the time I lived in the Loire valley drinking CF every day from the morning till the evening…just saying.
As a vine (rootstock) and a wine, Cabernet Franc is more precocious than Cabernet Sauvignon – but then most varieties are. Cabernet Franc buds and ripens at least a week before Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes it particularly useful the cool Hermanus climate where the more famous Cabernet may not reach full ripeness at all.
In practice the two varieties are typically grown together and blended into the same wine; almost always together in wines originating from Bordeaux. Outside of Bordeaux, this may be called a “Bordeaux blend.” However, I adore this wine in monocepage (wine made from only one cultivar, not a blend) if the vintage was not too cold. (CF lends to hard, green tannins and a herbal aroma in cooler vintages in the Loire Valley).
That`s why I love the Swartskaap, it the example that SA is able to reach the French quality without being a copy of it. Between now and two years, I see an extreme increase in popularity of this cultivar.
Enough theory now. How does it pair?
Again, I’m filled with memories of dinners I had with top winemakers of this cultivar in the Loire. It is the regional dish over there: canard aux vin rouge, pommes confit et lentilles vert.
Why is this pairing so perfect? This dish just needs some great wine, and this great wine,
the Swartskaap, need to be tempered
by some delicious duck.
Mostly, a chef will cook duck rosy (juicy and a bit bloody ). This fact brings the sommelier to the more tannic wines since red meat fat and proteins will lessen the sensation of tannin. The fattier the meat, the more robust the wine needs to be. Which guides us to a wooded version, as the Swartskaap spent 18 months rounding in French oak.
Herbs and sauce plays a major role! Thyme, rosemary, forest berries… bridge to the typical herbal character of this wine. Contrarily, a creamy sauce or a orange dominated dish would lead us to a totally different style, for instance wooded Viognier.
Not to forget, vegetables play a part too. The earthy and nutty (roasted) beetroot will harmonize nicely with the earthy and wooded (roast preparation) undertones of this wine (wooded). Since CF has high acidity, it is the perfect food friendly wine to highlight the complexity of Jack`s composition.