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Michael Franz
Michael Franz
(By Reginald A. Pearman
The Great Middleweight Champ (Post, April 9, 2003)
The Grapevine Archive
Post Wine Columns
Food Section
Web site: All Live Online Transcripts

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Entertainment Marketplace: Winery Guide

The Grapevine
Hosted by Michael Franz
Special to the Washington Post

Wednesday, April 9, 2003; Noon ET

Every other Wednesday at Noon ET, Washington Post wine columnist Michael Franz comes to the Web for The Grapevine to talk about the art of wine and his latest column.

Franz has worked as wine columnist for The Washington Post since 1994, and has conducted more than 650 site visits and tastings at wineries across Western and Eastern Europe, South America, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. You can find his column on alternating Wednesdays in The Washington Post Food section.

The transcript follows -- enjoy the oenological banter.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Michael Franz: G’day mates! Welcome to The Grapevine, an interactive forum on all things connected with wine. The basic idea for the show is that you submit any question plausibly related to wine, and I do my best to shed some light on the matter. Anything from the growing of wine grapes, to the craft of the winemaker, to the workings of the wine trade, to issues of buying, storing and serving the stuff is fair game, so the range of potential discussion points is very broad. I’m always especially interested in questions regarding the pairing of wines with food, so let me help if you’ve got a question along these lines.

My column in today’s paper reviews wines based on Cabernet Franc from France’s Loire Valley. These wines are seriously undervalued in the USA, so I hope that you’ll give one or two of the wines I’ve recommended a taste. Availability is spotty at both the retail and wholesale leve across the country, but the required effort to find these wines will be repaid at your table—especially if you eat lightly prepared white meats with any frequency.

As usual, I’d like to recommend a great bargain for you Grapevinistas, and today’s choice is an excellent, affordable, and not-too-tough-to-find wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Trumpeter, Maipu, Argentina, 2000, $9. This is just delicious, with ripe, rich, robust fruit recalling blackberries. Oak is notable but not obtrusive, and the ripe fruit gives a rounded feel to the finish. Even at $9, this is sufficiently robust to really require pairing with food, and a simple, grilled steak will be a perfect partner. Great stuff—and a steal.

Let’s get rolling with your questions. Please don’t be offended if I can’t get to your question during the hour, as there are almost always more than I can manage. Generally speaking, I try to respond first to those questions that may be of most general interest, or at least those that I can answer with information that will be useful to participants other than the questioner. However, I also take questions to help individuals, so please be patient and keep trying!

Arlington, Va.: Love the discussion and column: you greatly assist the novice and the expert alike!

A gift question: a friend of mine is getting married and for her bridal shower, it has been requested that we bring Italian-themed gifts as she is going to Rome, Venice, and Florence for her honeymoon. Italian wine (or grappa, limoncello, etc.) would be perfect, I hope. I'm a newcomer to wine and need your sage advice.

The catch: is there anything that would be reasonably priced that is easily available in the US but not in those three cities (or would be prohibitively expensive to bring into the US). My thinking is that why get her something that she could easily get in Italy? Where in the DC area could I start looking? Thanks!

Michael Franz: Hi,
Thank you for the kind words.
I'm no lover of Lemoncello, and where Grappa is concerned, I worry about brain damage, so I'm going to play to my strength and stick with wine! There is so much really, really good Italian wine available these days that you almost can't go wrong. The vintages running from 1995 through 2000 were good to fantastic almost everywhere in Italy. Also, wine shops are neither all that widespread or all that well stocked in Italy, so I wouldn't worry too much about getting something she'll encounter over there. Also, a few good Italian wines will really whet her appetite for her trip, and even if she does see one of her bottles over there, she'll just remember your gift fondly. All the top stores in this area carry lots of good Italian wines, so just head into one (like Arrowwine, near you) and ask to speak with the consultant most up on Italian wines.

Alexandria, Va.: Michael,

I have been asked to bring a bottle of Chianti to a party on Saturday night, but know nothing about the wine. Could you please recommend a good bottle that is easily available in Virginia and is in the $10 price range.


Michael Franz: Hi,
Sounds like my kind of party! Chianti has gotten pricey, but there are still a few good ones around in that range. one that I like is Palagetto (Chianti Colli Senesi) 2001, which at $11 is very good. The distributor for N. VA is Select, so you might ask your retailer to get a bit in for you. Enjoy!

Washington, D.C.: Someone told me that you also lead wine tastings. I'm getting interested in wine, but the thought of a tasting intimidates me just a bit. What are they like?

Michael Franz: They are NOT intimidating, and indeed my prime objective is to make people more comfortable with wine. I try to do this partly by approaching the subject in a relaxed manner, but more substantively, by explaining the basics of wine in a straightforward manner (which is easy, not because I'm particularly lucid, but because the basics of wine are actually fairly simple and straightforward). Then, at the intro level, I show people wines in pairs (e.g., two Sauvignon Blancs, both from the same grape, vintage and technique, and then two Chardonnays, two pairs of reds, etc.) drawn from different continents to prove to them that they can discern even minimal differences. Many, many people are intimidated by wine because they think they can't distinguish between similar wines, and you'd be amazed how empowered they feel once they're shown that they really CAN. There's a lot of hooey out there about this or that person having a "great palate" that intimidates casual consumers. The fact is that almost everybody has a perfectly good palate!

Arlington, Va.: Michael,

Your column today hit on a frustration I have with pairings of wine and food. For the obvious health reasons I eat a lot chicken and fish, but I get tired of white wines. I do enjoy "lighter" Reds, such as Pinot Noir (being a displaced Oregonian this is an easy thing to enjoy), but often miss the range of complexity that many Reds offer. Besides drinking a lot of Pinot, I have started having a glass of a "heavier" Red before dinner with some good cheddar cheese or other appropriate appetizer.
I confess I haven't tried a lot of Cabernet Francs, so I look forward to that. Are there any other lighter-bodied reds you would recommend?


Michael Franz: I feel your pain! Beyond Cab Francs and Pinots, I'd really encourage you to look toward some Tempranillo-based wines from northern Spain (Rioja, Navarra, Toro) and at Sangiovese-based wines from north-central Italy. I write about these periodically, and you'll find some specific suggestions in my columns, archived at the Food Section's home page. Sante!

Twin Cities: Just bought many bottles of chianti (which I love) in a local wine sale. I bought a bunch of other wines, too, but went a little crazy on the chiantis. How long do chiantis last, generally? Do they get better if they sit around for awhile, or are best for drinking now, or does it depend? Aside from various italian dishes (which I tend to pair them with), will they go well with a chicken breast dinner like the CabFrancs you wrote about today?

Love your column and this chat by the way, I always learn something new.

Michael Franz: So you "went a little crazy on the Chiantis"...hmmm...I like you already! They'd be just right with chicken breast, and if you drink them with food (as apparently you do), I'd go right after them and not age them. One of the greatest things about Chiantis is that they are remarkably complex (in aroma AND flavor AND texture) immediately upon release, whereas lots of New World wines just have juicy fruit but no complexity unless you age them. So, I like my little Chiantis (as opposed to Riservas or Super Tuscans) fresh and young.

re: Wine tastings: Where and when are the wine tastings advertised? They sound great!

Michael Franz: We're getting dangerously close to shameless self-promotion here, but you seem genuinely interested.... I do many for a non-profit entity called Washington Wine Academy, which has a web site. I also do things in restaurants from time to time, and these are sometimes noticed in the Food section on the third page. Hope I'll see you!

Bowie, Md: I've been asked to throw a wine tasting at the beach. Do I start with whites (assuming I decide to include a chard or sauv blanc or viognier) and then move to red (chilean, australian or california cab)?

Michael Franz: At the beach? In parkas? Don't they know that the ice age has reclaimed our area? Well, the good news is that you won't need to worry about the smell of cocoa butter overwhelming the bouquet of your wines!
Yes, go white to red, and within these categories, progress from lighter and more delicate to richer and more robust. The idea is simply to let each wine show its stuff without having to creep out from under the shadow of a bigger wine preceding it.
Have fun!

Potomac, Md.: Great topic today! I agree that Cab Franc (and Sangiovese) is a wonderful wine to pair with many of the foods I eat, and also makes a great "cocktail" now that the weather has warmed up. I'm definitely going to try some of the Loire wines you recommend. Previously, I've had several Cab Francs from Washington State. How do those compare and do you have any favorites in that region?

washingtonpost.com: The Great Middleweight Champ (Post, April 9, 2003)

Michael Franz: Hi! There are some really nice Cab Francs made in WA, and also in VA (Barboursville in particular) and in CA (Longoria "Blues Cuvee" and Steele are exceptional). In WA and CA, the grapes get riper and the wines are quite a big bigger and richer than in the Loire, whereas VA seems closer to the French original. Both styles are valid, though, and well worth exploring!

Alexandria, Va.: Hi Michael! Thanks for taking my question. I would love to know what wine you suggest serving with ham. Easter is coming up, and I have no clue - red or white or both? Thanks again!

Michael Franz: If there's glaze involved, I really think the best choice is an off-dry Riesling from Germany or a slightly sweet Chenin Blanc-based wine like Vouvray. Also on the Chenin side, an American bottling that I love is Bogle 2001, which is just fantastic at about $14. if there's no glaze, you can go with red too, but something light like the Cab Francs, Riojas, Pinots or Chiantis we've been discussing today would really be better than big Cabs or Zins.

Lake Ridge, Va.: Michael...neat column today! How do you compare/contrast the cabernet franc with the Italian Montepulcianos...and are both a good match for shrimp, whether grilled or awash in a tomato broth?

Also, please, bring back the "vinuous" in the intro!

Michael Franz: Hi! We're all on the same wavelength today! Montepulcianos are really interchangeable with the Chiantis we're talking about, which are in turn the functional equivalents of Cabernet Franc where pairing with light meats are concerned. Of course, all of these (and Tempranillos and Pinots too) have distinctive aromas and flavors and textures, so I don't mean "identical" when saying "functionally equivalent," but rather "interchangeable," depending on your tastes and the food of the moment!

Michael Franz: Oh...one more thing...vinous will return! I'm very flattered that you'd notice such a little change!

Reston, Va.: Michael,

Love your column and chat. I have a bottle of Gaja Barbaresco '93. Is it ready to drink? What foods is it best paired with? Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: The Great Middleweight Champ (Post, April 9, 2003)

Michael Franz: It is ready, and it begs you for a grilled veal chop, with simple sauteed wild mushrooms on the side!

Bowie, Md.: I found a great 2000 french bordeaux in Rehoboth last month, finally opened a bottle last night and it is fabulous. Any idea where I might find it locally? Ch Haut La Peyere. Do you have any knowledge of a great little bargain 2000 bordeaux Ch. Haut Le Peyere?

Michael Franz: I'll take this in a second, after your second posting...

Bowie, Md: Corrected spelling of that 2000 Bord:
Ch. Haut-La Pereyre...

Michael Franz: ...which is right here. Sorry that I haven't tasted this yet from 2000, but I've sure had good luck with cheap little wines from Bordeaux in this vintage. Not since 1982 have Bordeaux's little wines been so much fun...complex, versatile, ripe and ready to drink. I'll recommend one or two in the paper, but I really defer to my colleague Ben Giliberti, who watches Bordeaux more closely than I do. My sense, though, is that you can really experiment with wines from this vintage with little fear of getting a clinker!

Somewhere, USA: food pairing question: Hi Michael - I am going to be hosting a small dinner party on Friday. I'm going to be making a pork loin with Cuban style mojo and mashed plantains. What would be good, moderately priced (no more then $20) red and white options available locally? Thanks!

Michael Franz: Yum! That is a job for Pinot Noir!

Baltimore, Md.: Dear Michael, thanks for your tips on Loire cabernet franc wines. I have been waiting to buy more of these, because the '99 and '00 vintages just don't seem good for Loire reds. Up here in Baltimore we get a Charles Joguet Chinon red which is very nice. Have you tried his wines?

Michael Franz: Yes, and they are among the very best. Somehow they weren't submitted for consideration for this article, and I'm not sure why...probably an oversight. I tasted a bunch of really good 2001s in France earlier this year, so keep the faith!

Washington, D.C.: My parents and I are trying to choose a wine to pair with our wedding meal which is salmon in puff pastry with a saffron cream sauce on the side. We're looking in the $10 and under category. The wedding is in California so they would prefer a California wine. We need both a red and white option. I don't know much about wine but had tried an Alamos Pinot Noir and liked that (although I don't know how well the Argentina thing will go over in the North Bay). As far a white wine, I hate Chardonnay, they love it. I want a Sauvignon Blanc. Any recs? THANKS!

Michael Franz: Go for Camelot Pinot Noir and Buena Vista Sauvignon Blanc, which cost $8 or less, hail from California, and are appropriate for your food. Congratulations and good luck!

Washington, D.C.: Help! I just returned from Mexico, where I sampled a couple good wines made there. Now, I would like to serve them here at a party for people to try. Any idea of a store in or around DC where I can get wines from Mexico?

Michael Franz: I've got you covered! What you need is Santo Tomas (Baja) Tempranillo 50% Cabernet 50% 2001, $9. Very interesting and very good! Wholesaler in this area is Potomac Selections; ask a retailer to get some in for you.

Yikes! Out of time! Sorry if I couldn't get to your question; please try again in two weeks, same time, same site. Until then, cheers!

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