Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most popular red grape varieties. Researchers established that it is a natural crossing of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc. It originated in Bordeaux, but today most moderate climate growing regions plant it for its unmistakable colour, flavour and texture.
It produces distinct wines and has an ability to reflect the terroir. A Bordeaux cabernet sauvignon looks and tastes distinctly different to an Australian wine, even if the blend follows the same formula of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot and maybe a little malbec.
is rich in phenols (tannins, flavour, compounds and antocyans), ripens late, and if under ripe displays vegetal aromas.
This thick-skinned grape yields very dark wines in hot climates (Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and Australia), but medium-coloured products in cooler climes like Bordeaux, Ontario, Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
It is susceptible to oidium, but vigorous, requiring weak rootstocks to curb production. In cool regions careful canopy management is crucial for ripening and colour. Rich in pip to pulp ratio (1:12), the grape produces an excellent framework for other varieties.
In Bordeaux winemakers blend it with cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot, whereas in Australia the preference is shiraz, mourvedre, carignane and petit verdot.
In California many winemakers make 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon wines, some blend it with merlot and cabernet franc and call it Meritage, a term invented there.
Cabernet sauvignon is naturally high in tannins and requires long barrel aging to “soften”, but modern winemakers destalk bunches completely before pressing. This yields a soft, accessible wine after a couple of years.
Small (250 liter) Allier, Vosges, Never, Jupille oak barrels are best suited for aging. American white oak barrels yield a coarse textured wine, but if super ripe, soft, fruity wines are blended, the results can be satisfactory.
In a Bordeaux blend cabernet sauvignon produces structure and appealing fruitiness, petit verdot adds spice, cabernet franc perfume, malbec colour and fullness, and merlot elegance and fruit.
also blends with many other reed grape varieties. Australian winemakers have been very successful with their innovative blends.
Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Italy, the U. S. A (California and Washington State), New Zealand, Argentina, Tuscany in Italy, Ontario and British Columbia (Canada) and Spain have been very successful in producing well balanced and deeply flavored cabernet sauvignon varietals and blends.
Cabernet sauvignon likes well-drained, gravelly soils and moderate climate.
In France outside of Bordeaux, this grape variety is planted in the Loire, Languedoc, Roussillon, and Cahors.
New World winemakers prefer fruit-driven high alcohol cabernet sauvignons, whereas Europeans lean towards acid-driven, medium-bodied wines more suitable with food and enjoyment over a long period.
European cabernet sauvignon based wines require long barrel and bottle aging due to their high acidity.
New World cabernets can be enjoyed much sooner, but last no more than three to four years.