After my Cabernet Franc experience at Pain et Vin, I got to thinking, ‘is all Argentine Cabernet Franc this good?’ I certainly don’t remember any Cabernet Franc sticking out in my memory from all the Buenos Aires wine tastings that I have attended. So the next time I went out to dinner in a small restaurant called Local in Palermo Hollywood, I scanned the wine menu to see if it would bear the fruity grapes that I craved and that it did. Saint Felicien Cabernet Franc 2010 by Catena Zapata.
Local Restaurant is a cute, modern restaurant that has a clean style, no fuss, no mess outlook that is somewhat of a little unexpected gem, glowing on a dim street. The tables were dressed in classic white linen and nothing more than a rolled serviette and a candle to decorate them. The partially open kitchen is situated at the back of the open space, allowing diners to sneak a peek at the various chefs’ slice and dicing skills. The menu is much like the venue; quiet simplicity with only 10 options between starters and the main dish, as well as three dishes of the day but all dishes encapsulate Argentine cuisine with a modern twist.
I knew that the Cabernet Franc would be best with a heavy red meat or lamb but at the moment I have taken the decision to cut back on this hardcore carnivore thing that they do here in Argentina and opt only for only white meats and fish. So we started with a marinated shrimps, mixed leaf salad, with a garlic, chili and avocado puree garnish. They were delightful mouthfuls, well-seasoned and an explosion of flavour so I was looking forward to my main; a chicken breast, served with roasted tomatoes and black kalamata olives drizzled in olive oil. The tomatoes were sweet and gorgeous but unfortunately the other main components of the dish were little lackluster and very heavily salted, so I became more interested in gulping back more water rather than the food and wine.
Saint Felicien is a very well-known line of wines here in Argentina and many of the local Argentines will tell you that these wines are some of the best you can find. I personally do not feel the same way about them. Saint Felicien is created by huge powerhouse winery Catena Zapata who has the ability to produce 40million liters of wine per year, so sometimes I find their wines slightly lacking in complexity and less beguiling as some other of the best Argentina wines, like the boutique Argentine wines we stock here at Anuva. The owner of Catena Zapata, Nicholas Zapata, is however, an extremely important figure in the Argentine Wine industry who has been recognized by renowned wine publications, such as Decanter as ‘Winemaker of the Year 2009’ for his work to bring Malbec to the internationally acclaimed level it is today.
The Saint Felicien line dates back more than 40 years, when Catena launched their first Cabernet Sauvignon for the Argentine market. It was the first 100% varietal produced in Argentina, a trend which was soon followed by other wineries in the country. This 2010 Saint Felicien Cabernet Franc comes from the Catena Estate in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza and was aged 16months in 90% French oak and 10% new American oak.
The color was very similar to the Lamadrid Single vineyard reserve that I tasted the week before, deep dark and broody, but the nose (as I has suspected) barely contained the same complexity. There was that black fruit character again but it was more like ripe blueberries and blackberries, with a touch of toasted nuts and hefty dose of black pepper spice. In the mouth, it was medium-full body, with good structure but I found the acidity slightly unbalanced and mouth puckering, which threw me off a bit. Again, the flavors didn’t contain that delicious savory, meaty edge that I enjoyed in the last Cabernet Franc, but the fruits were there as well that strong black pepper finish. It was a good wine, with good food but I don’t think I will be revisiting them any time soon.