My father was an inventor and was very private about his patents. What he was not private about was Cabernet Franc. He tooted his horn about Cabernet Franc wherever he went. His business trips included several to Hungary.
Whenever he went to Hungary for business, he took two extra, empty suitcases, filling them up, upon return, with bottles of Cabernet Franc.
When my parents had their bi-monthly parties at our house in New Orleans, in the 70’s and 80’s, wine spritzers were popular. A wine spritzer is made from equal parts of chilled wine mixed with either club soda or ginger ale.
Following the trend, my father made wine coolers using Cabernet Franc.
That is when they started calling my father, ‘Cab Franc’, instead of Joseph.
On some business trips he would bring back bottles of Cabernet Franc from France, and other trips, Cab Franc from Italy. When he poured these bottles from France and Italy, his band of friends would say the wine doesn’t taste right. It’s not the usual Cab Franc that you pour for us from Hungary. We don’t want an imposter, they would say. My dad’s loyal friends would say, just bring back the right stuff, the Cab Franc from Hungary.
In a panicked moment, my dad called the Weills and asked if they could suggest to Martin’s Wine Cellar, the premier wine shop in New Orleans, to carry Cabernet Franc from Hungary The Weill brothers were influential and Martin’s Wine Cellar purchased a palate to keep on hand. It didn’t take long for Martins Wine Cellar to sell the wine, due in part because my dad was the self appointed Hungarian Cabernet Franc ambassador in New Orleans.
In fact, my father said to the staff at Martins Wine Cellar, if you can’t educate your customers on how great this grape from Hungry is, I would be happy to buy all of the bottles you can’t sell.
My father was a man of his word.
As the years went by, my interest in wine grew.
I was out of the house and married, living in Nuremberg, Germany, teaching journalism, photography and movie-making at Nuremberg American High School. We owned a Volkswagen camper and had three months every summer to travel. This was in the 90’s.
My summer goal was to camp in Hungary and visit Villany and learn about my fathers favorite grape, Cabernet Franc.
My dad passed away in 1989, so, I took it on as my duty to him to visit Villany and learn, first hand about Cabernet Franc for both. ‘Cab Franc’ and my mothers Hungarian roots.
The visit was a success.
Villany has a Mediterranean climate, with long, hot summers and mild winters. Cabernet Franc is planted mostly everywhere in the region. The end result encompasses a fruit forward wine that is balanced, velvety and has old word earthiness. It’s a clean wine that rolls off your palate and continues to grow and takes minutes to end, due to its long finish.
My Hungarian wine friends taught a Hungarian phrase to me,’Ha Villany, akkor Cabernet Franc! Ha Cabernet Franc, akkor Villany,’ The translation is simple, ‘If you think of Villany, think of Cabernet Franc. If you think of Cabernet Franc, think of Villany.’
Cabernet Franc is a fascinating grape.
Historically, I was taught, it’s the father of both Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. If that is the case, its juiciness, spice and even structure make this variety a superstar. With high alcoholic content (15% is normal), the tannins do exist in younger vintages, but, disappear with aging, turning this wine into an elegant, fruit driven, fresh wine, worthy of international acclaim.
If it weren’t for my fathers passion about Cabernet Franc, chances are I would never had entered the wine world and my passion to alert the world that Hungarian Cabernet Franc is a ‘World Class’ wine.
Isn’t it time to try my Dad’s favorite Hungarian export, Cabernet Franc?
Philip S. Kampe