Pair it Up! Cab Franc, meet Pho

This is the kind of pairing I had never experimented with despite being an admirer of good pho. If I were to reach for a beverage to drink along side a big bowl of savoury broth, light cold beer is the first thing that comes to mind.

Chatelaine's 'Easy Vietnamese beef pho' recipe is a bolder take on the dish. It would be inconvenient for most home cooks to parboil their beef bones for six hours and let the stock simmer over night. The 'easy' part comes from a quick integration of spices, onion and ginger into the soup. It is also a meatier dish—it uses seared beef rib as opposed to the lighter flavours you'd get from raw beef or beef balls without a sear.

Pho is a fun dish to pour a flight of wines and experiment with, because many of your pairing assumptions don't work. It's an intense, savoury, meaty dish, with loads of spices and how you garnish it will play a role (level of heat and the herbal influence of basil). It's also notorious for being a salt-laden dish. In theory, salt accentuates tannin and alcohol, but I didn't find that was the case. In fact, the dish called for grippy tannin and a fuller-bodied wine. Where I thought the richness and exotic spice of an Alsatian-style wine would work nicely, it fell flat. The sweet Rieslings didn't complement the flavours and the sugar was accentuated. The flavours of lighter reds—Pinots and Gamays—were thrown off kilter by clove and star anise in the soup and their lack of tannin made them taste flabby. The dark pepper characters of Rhône red varieties worked great with the broth and the beef. Once I added the fresh herbs and the rest of the elements, Cabernet Franc shone.

Ontario’s Tawse 2010 Cabernet Franc is a fuller, plush style. Of the dozen wines I tried next to a bowl of pho, it was by far the best. It has the deep blackberry notes of Cabernet with a woodsy finish. It matched the intensity of the spices in the broth and its tannin kept the flavours from getting washed away.

Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.

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