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Categorized | Red Wine

Wine 101-Cabernet Sauvignon




cabernet sauvignon Wine 101 Cabernet Sauvignon

About Cabernet Sauvignon


Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon built its reputation on Bordeaux’s Left Bank. Here, in the district of Medoc, the varietal is the key component of blended wines that also may include some Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and even Malbec and Petit Verdot. Moving slightly south, Cabernet Sauvignon meets Merlot in roughly equal proportions in the red wines of Graves. In both of these Bordeaux regions, the top bottles– called classified growths– are considered by many wine connoisseurs to be the world’s greatest reds.

These wines don’t come cheap. Wines from famous chateaus are highly sought by collectors, who look at these bottles as solid investments. Top bottlings have an austerity and heavily tannic nature that doesn’t lift until after at least eight to ten years of aging. Thus, classic Bordeaux wines are for the patient: those who are willing to wait to either enjoy them or to resell them. Given enough time, these wines will show notes of black currant and cassis, as well as an undercurrent of earth. Tannins will be firm and balanced, with sure notes of the oak used in fermentation and barrel aging. The last decade has seen some of the best vintages of these wines in recent memory: look to 2005, 2003, and 2000. Of course, these stellar years send collectors into a frenzy, so expect to pay a dear price for anything from these vintages.

Many Cabernet Sauvignon plantings in the New World have been very successful, especially in California’s Napa Valley. Here, the grape has become the flagship of the California wine industry. Well-drained, low-yield, hillside vineyards in the Napa Valley produce outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon. We find these wines to be more fruit-forward than Bordeaux wines, showing abundant notes of ripe blackberry and cassis in addition to sweet oak notes of chocolate, spice, and tar. These Napa wines need some bottle-aging as well, but not necessarily as much as Bordeaux reds. 2002 and 2001 were especially strong recent vintages. There are no shortage of quality producers, even if these wines are rarely values: some of our favorites include Staglin Family, Rudd Estate, and Robert Mondavi.

Cabernet Sauvignon also flourishes in Washington State, Australia and even Chile. In Washington, prices have been creeping up at the high end, with some producers aiming to compete with cult wines from the Napa Valley. Consider Chateau Ste. Michelle and Woodward Canyon. In Australia, look to the Coonawarra and Margaret River regions. Chile can reveal excellent bargains to those who know where to look: Montes makes a strong range of quality bottlings, as does Casa Lapostolle.

As Cabernet Sauvignon is bold and assertive on the palate, it pairs best with foods like grilled red meats. Taken together, the proteins and fats in the food neutralize some of the stronger tannic qualities of the wine, leading to a harmonic combination that enhances both partners.


Recommended Growing Regions: Left Bank (Bordeaux, France), Napa Valley (California), Washington State, Chile, Australia
Flavor Profile: Full, tannic wines with notes of blackcurrant and cassis
Food Pairings: Grilled red meats, stews, hard or rich cheeses
Other Notes: Expect New World bottling to be "bigger": riper fruit flavors and higher alcohol

One Response to “Wine 101-Cabernet Sauvignon”

  1. Cooking says:

    Both are smooth, yet classically structured varietal wines made from premium California grapes. Cooking


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