Cabernet Sauvignon is, without a doubt, the king of red wine grapes. It’s the most widely planted grape on earth, present in virtually all wine regions on all five continents, both in the old and the new world.
Cabernet is a leader and plays only leading roles. It might be blended with lesser varieties, but Cabernet is always the first violin. If you enjoy full-bodied, expressive red wines, then Cabernet is for you. If you like strong wines of energetic character, and need a bold wine for a steak, look no further.
A strong character might dominate the grape’s personality, but there’s beauty as well. The aromas coming out of a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon are hard to beat. The grape didn’t become so popular for no reason.
Here’s all you wanted to know about Cabernet Sauvignon, where it comes from, and how it tastes. Pop open a bottle of Cab and read on because you’re in for quite a ride.
The History of a King
Cabernet Sauvignon is a relatively recent wine grape. Compared to others like Pinot Noir that go back for thousands of years, Cabernet is fairly young. It gained notoriety in the 18th century in the French vineyards of Bordeaux.
The parent grapes from which Cabernet Sauvignon emerged enjoy their merited popularity. Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are quite famous worldwide, but their progeny certainly stole the spotlight.
Cabernet Sauvignon is often planted with its stablemates Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The vines flower and ripen at different times during the growing season, enabling grape growers to have some insurance, especially in Bordeaux, where the unstable rainy weather can ruin an entire crop. If one grape fails, others thrive.
Cabernet is also planted with others like Merlot because they complement each other in the glass. Cabernet is all about structure; the grape has lots of tannins, the gritty particles that cause the feeling of dryness in your mouth. Merlot is juicier. Together they’re known as the Bordeaux blend, and they’re inseparable.
Cabernet migrated to other countries in all five continents. It also has won the hearts of traditionalist countries, including Italy and Spain. Cabernet is favored for being a resistant crop, but also for its structured mouthfeel and age-worthiness.
Wines based on the sturdy grape are often long-lived. You can enjoy an aged Bordeaux half a century after it was bottled. Few wines are as nuanced and complex as an aged Cabernet Sauvignon, that’s why some of them are collector’s items.
Cabernet Sauvignon Around The World
In 1976, an important wine competition in Paris fondly remembered as the Judgment of Paris had the best Cabernet-based wines from France competing against the finest Cabernet Sauvignon from California. The American wines won the competition, and the realm of wine changed forever.
Now, wine lovers and enthusiasts know that great wine can come from everywhere, and not only from France. Cabernet Sauvignon proved it could deliver world-class wines despite its origin.
Today, Cabernet Sauvignon is king in California’s Napa Valley and thrives in Washington State. Cabernet makes the strongest wines from Chile and specific regions in South Africa and Australia.
The famous Super Tuscan Italian wines, those challenging the country’s time-worn traditions, make fair use of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Spanish Vinos de Pago, the most acclaimed red wines in the arid country, are Cabernet-based too.
Cabernet Sauvignon’s conquer is not over yet; you’ll find fantastic Cabernet wines from India and China, Mexico, and Uruguay. Wherever grapes grow, there are some Cabernet vines, and chances are they yield outstanding wines.
How Does Cabernet Sauvignon Taste Like?
Wine made with Cabernet Sauvignon is often opaque, ruby red-colored, and concentrated. The nose is reminiscent of licorice, black currant, tobacco leaves, forest floor, cedar, and spice box. In the palate, Cabernet is intensely flavored and astringent — it’s the tannins in the wine. A long finish is not a rare trait, and complexity is a given.
Few wines on the planet are as intense and focused as the ones made with Cabernet Sauvignon and its gang. Even less age as well. It’s easy to see why Cabernet is so respected and loved.
Pairing Cabernet Sauvignon With Food
When it comes to pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with food, the wine’s strength and structured quality are both an advantage and a disadvantage. Cabernet needs to be enjoyed with equally intense food.
A fatty steak is Cabernet’s perfect match, but it’s also lovely with hearty stews, slow-cooked meat, char-grilled veggies, and barbecue.
However, Cabernet’s structure makes it not very compatible with milder food like white meat, fish, or subtle preparations.
Cabernet Sauvignon wines are not always built to age, they can be young wines suitable for everyday enjoyment, yet the most appreciated are concentrated enough to last for decades.
As Cabernet ages, its tannins smoothen, and the wine becomes more appropriate for a broader variety of foods.
Cabernet Sauvignon Alternatives
Although it’s not easy to find a wine with Cabernet’s strong will and intense character, there are some worthwhile alternatives.
- Cabernet Franc has a similar flavor profile although it is more herbal on the nose.
- Syrah can be a sturdy grape with adequate amounts of tannins, although it’s spicier on the nose.
- Malbec can be ripe and concentrated like Cabernet Sauvignon, making it a suitable match for steaks and grilled food.
- Sangiovese, the Italian grape from Tuscany, can have an intense profile and a structured palate.
- Tempranillo, Spain’s flagship wine, is pretty sturdy when aged, and can substitute Cabernet Sauvignon on the table.
The Uncontested Cabernet
Cabernet Sauvignon is larger than life. The best wines made from it are some of the most prized and age-worthy on the market. Cabernet is easily enjoyable and a fantastic partner for grilled meat and every food kissed by smoke and fire.
Whether it’s a bottle of 100% Cabernet or a Cabernet-based blend, you can always expect a great flavor and a potent wine worthy of every occasion. That’s the charm of Cabernet Sauvignon wines; they’re an iron fist in a velvet glove.
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