Getting to Know Cabernet Sauvignon

Getting to Know Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon’s parents are Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. In the mid-1990s, Carole Meredith and John Bowers, at UC Davis, identified these grapes as the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon through DNA testing. The naturally occurring cross-pollination is estimated to have occurred as early as the 1600s.

Given that one of its parents is Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon’s half-siblings include Merlot and Carménère.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape in the world. As of 2020, there are an estimated 840,000 acres planted worldwide. It is grown on all continents, except for Antarctica.

It is the most-widely planted grape in China and Chile. In France, its native home, it is the sixth-most-planted grape overall, and the fourth-most-planted red grape, behind Merlot, Grenache, and Syrah. It is the second-most-planted grape in the United States, behind Chardonnay.

In 1976, a wine tasting pitted California wines against French wines in a blind tasting named “The Judgement of Paris.” The 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon received the top score of all the wines, which included wines from top Bordeaux houses like Château Mouton Rothschild, and Château Haut-Brion.

From 2000 to 2018, a single bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon held the record for the most expensive bottle of wine to be sold at auction. The wine that held the record was a six-liter bottle of 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon from California, and the winning bid was an astounding half a million dollars.

The grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, has high levels of a compound called Methoxypyrazine (often shorted to pyrazines) than many other grapes, which gives it its propensity to have aromas of black pepper, green peppercorn, sage, or bell pepper. The levels in the wine can often be minimized in the vineyard by making sure the grapes ripen fully, and through removal of excess green growth on the vine.

Aromas and flavors in a Cabernet Sauvignon will differ depending on the region and climate where the grape is grown. In cooler parts of the world, Cabernet Sauvignon can exhibit notes of black fruit, including black currant, also with the pyrazines. In moderate climates, black currant, black cherry, and black olives may be experienced. Finally, in a hotter climate, the wine may come across as having super-ripe fruit that may come across as jam-like. Australian Cabernet Sauvignon—especially from Coonawarra, where it is hot and planted on unique terra rossa soil—is quite notable for aromas of eucalyptus or menthol.

Due to its high level of tannins and acidity, Cabernet Sauvignon can age for decades. The decision to age your wine should depend on how you enjoy your wine. If you like big, bold fruity and wines, drink it within 6 to 8 years of bottling. If you prefer wines that are more earthy, with smoother tannins, and that still have hints of fruit, age it about 10 years. Finally, if you like wines with dried fruit, earthy mushroom and leather on the nose and palate, age it much longer.

A fatty steak is always a recommended pairing for Cabernet Sauvignon for many reasons. The fat from the meat and the tannins from the pair are foils for each other. Eating food with high fat content will coat your mouth. That coating will minimize the gum drying astringency you usually feel when you drink a highly tannic wine. The tannins in the wine will then rinse away the coating. Cabernet Sauvignon has its own official day, which is celebrated each year on the Thursday before Labor Day across social media, via the hashtag #CabernetDay.

The world’s most famous blends contain Cabernet Sauvignon, including most red wines from Bordeaux, Meritage wines in the United States, Super Tuscan wines from Italy, and CMS Blends, which see it blended with Merlot and Syrah.  Join City Vino for our weekly tasting on Saturday October 17th, 2020, when we will feature Cabernet Sauvignon blends.


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