From the Skalli stronghold in the South of France, the Fortant de France Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 reminds me of the phrase "rhythm and melody", the crucial elements that combine to make a song. Why does the übergrape that is Cabernet Sauvignon prompt the playing of music in my mind? Well, I guess music is a good metaphor for creating a solid red wine. No, rhythm and melody is not a literal ingredient list for the winemaker -- though some of that in the background may help the wine drinker when it gets to uncorking time. Wine's dynamic duo would have to be "tannins and acidity". Like rhythm and melody, these two are the basis of a successful, enjoyable product.
Because this wine achieves greatness with its tannins and acidity, you forgive it its other shortcomings. It's not big, full of matter or full-bodied, all things that a Cabernet Sauvignon might conjure up. Its colour is nothing to write home about: a brick to garnet hue, already acknowledging its peak before turning three years old. You might also forgive it its bouquet, heady with a little spice. It doesn't give up much more. But none of this could indicate its admirable balance and so I move in to drink the stuff. The real test, isn't it? Well, it does have nice fruit. Cassis (blackcurrant) plain and simple. Some spice rounds it out but it's not complicated and fairly light-bodied for this grape variety. Nevertheless it possesses that winning form of solid structure -- the claim to fame of Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins give it its backbone and it's the smart acid that gives it some nice length. Quite respectable and only sets you back about a sawbuck!
Oftentimes in the past I'd have a leftover half bottle of a Fortant de France wine and elect to make it my "cooking wine". I consider good cooking wines to be something respectable enough to drink but not prohibitive in price. When you put in a lot of time and effort (and money) cooking a gourmet meal why bring things down a level by adding plonk to your dish? (Don't go overboard either -- whose palate is refined enough to pick out a 97 Brunello in the coq au vin?) So basically, you take a Fortant like this and do yourself some good in front of the stove.
In any case, what I had pegged here as cooking wine for some five days running while it stood around in a half bottle was actually at a moment's notice poured back into my Spiegelau and thoroughly enjoyed once more. (When the Asian ladybug makes an unwelcome appearance, you need a quick back-up.) A wine once regulated to the top of the refrigerator next to the lemons and the coffee beans can come to bat in the clinch.
Sète, France 12.5%