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Grape Varietals

Cabernet Sauvignon






Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular and widely planted red grapes in the world; from Old Worlds regions like France, Italy and Spain to New World regions like California, Australia and Chile. For many years the origin of this grape was not understood with rumours linking it to ancient Roman wine. Another theory was that the grapevine originated in the Rioja region of Spain. However, the grape’s true origins were discovered in 1996 when DNA typing revealed Cabernet Sauvignon to be an offspring of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. It is most likely that the crossing occurred between these two Bordeaux varieties in the 17th Century. Its small berries, thick skin and loose bunches make it resistant to rot and frost there by making it one of the easiest grapes to grow.

 Cabernet Sauvignon Wines

Possibly the most well know Cabernet Sauvignon wines are Bordeaux wines from the Left Bank. Some of the most expensive ones are Chateau Latour, Chateaux Margaux and Chateau Mouton Rothschild to name a few. Italy’s Super Tuscans also constitute this grape where it is blended with Sangiovese and is characterized by ripe black cherry flavours that can give a perception of sweetness as well as strong notes of black currant. In the 1970s, the Coonawarra region first brought international attention to Australian Cabernet Sauvignons with intense fruit flavours and subtle minty notes. Other prominent Australian regions include Margaret River, Barossa Valley, Yarra Valley and Clare Valley. Similar in production as Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon gained prominence in California’s Napa Valley in the 1970’s and production doubled between 1988 and 1998. Cabernet from Sonoma County has shown a tendency to feature anise and black olive notes while Napa Valley Cabernets are characterized by their strong black fruit flavours.

These wines show a great ageing potential because of high tannin which acts as a preservative for these wines. It shows a great affinity for oak, either during fermentation or in barrel aging. In addition to having a softening effect on the grape's naturally high tannins, the unique wood flavours of vanilla and spice complement the natural grape flavours of black currant and tobacco. Young wines typically exhibit strong fruit flavours of black cherries and plum while as the wines age they can sometimes develop aromas associated with cedar, cigar boxes and pencil shavings. In general New World examples have more pronounced fruity notes while Old World wines can be more austere with heightened earthy notes. The aroma of black currants is one of the most distinctive and characteristic element of Cabernet Sauvignon that is present in virtually every style of the wine across the globe.

 Food Pairing

Cabernet Sauvignon is a very bold and assertive wine that has potential to overwhelm light and delicate dishes. It goes best with bold flavours and heavy foods like red meats (beef, duck, lamb, game) that have protein and fats which reduce the perception of tannin on the palate. It also pairs well with fishes like tuna when served rare. Pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with such foods will neutralise the tannins and bring out the fruit character of the wine. The oak influences of the wine can be matched with cooking methods such as grilling, smoking and plank roasting. Dishes that include oak-influenced flavours and aromas such as dill weed, brown sugar, nutmeg and vanilla can also pair well. Old World wines, such as Bordeaux, have earthier influences and will pair better with mushrooms and squash. Wines from cooler climates that have noticeable vegetal notes can be balanced with vegetables and greens. Cabernet Sauvignon has the potential to pair well with bitter dark chocolate. It also pairs well with a variety of cheeses, such as Cheddar, Mozzarella and Brie.

 Interesting Facts

It was Cabernet Sauvignon wines at 1976 Judgement of Paris wine tasting event that catapulted California into the wine big leagues of the world where it beat classified Bordeaux estates.

Due to its ease of growing in a variety of different soils & frost and disease resistant nature, Cabernet is considered a solid choice of grape in any wine region that is warm enough to cultivate it. This, coupled with its historical success in Bordeaux as well as New World regions like California & Australia, has contributed to criticism of the grape variety for its role as a "colonizer" grape, being planted in new and emerging wine regions at the expense of focus on the unique local grape varieties.

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