Cabernet Sauvignon Grape & Wine Profile

Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine grape variety of the grapevine species vitis vinifera. It is the most widely grown red wine grape variety in the world, and its wines were recently ranked as the most searched and sought after in the world.

It can form a full-bodied, complex, fruit-forward and dry wine when vinified correctly. The Cabernet Sauvignon grape has received most of its notoriety from being grown in the Bordeaux region of France. Traditionally speaking, these wines taste of heavy red and black fruit backed by noticeable tannins.

Growing Cabernet Sauvignon 

Cabernet Sauvignon is a choice grape variety for wine drinkers and vintners alike because of its taste profile and ease to produce. The vines are incredibly hardy and can grow in an array of climates and terroirs. They produce grapes with thick skins which are highly resistant to damaging weather like frost and hail.

Yields are often high, which can be a huge positive for winemakers considering that Cabernet is one of the most in-demand red wines around the world. On the other hand, controlling yields is also important for more boutique, craft wineries who are looking for a more refined product. This requires further investment in labor costs and a choice selection in terroir.

The Brief History of Cabernet

Ironically, if you were to look at it on a timescale starting when humans first tried wine; Cabernet Sauvignon hasn’t been around that long. It was stumbled upon during the 17th century in Southwestern France, where Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc were mingled together to form a new grape variety. (This was recently discovered in 1996 where DNA testing was done at the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology).

While centuries of wine production in Bordeaux helped launch Cabernet to fame over time, other regions like Napa Valley have helped bring it to the forefront of the new world as a single varietal red wine. Many Bordeaux winemakers are known for blending Cabernet Sauvignon with other varieties, such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

More Cabernet Sauvignon Producing Wine Regions: Looking Towards The Future

With wine production expanding globally at a record pace, wine enthusiasts should begin to look towards other old world and new world wine-producing regions to sample new takes on Cabernet Sauvignon. In North America, Washington State is growing gorgeous examples of Cabernet in AVAs including Yakima, Horse Heaven Hills and the Columbia Valley. California wine lovers undoubtedly should continue to keep an eye on Sonoma County’s wines. Paso Robles and the Santa Cruz Mountains are also crafting some delicious examples.

A variety of New World countries and regions produce fantastic Cabernet. From New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay region to Australia’s McLaren Valley, all the way to regions across Chile and even Stellenbosch in South Africa.

Moving into the Old World, beyond Bordeaux there are a plethora of quality Cabernet growing areas. Venture into regions like the Loire Valley, Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, Tuscany, and Navarra in Spain to truly expand your palate and see this grape’s potential.

Learn About These Other Wine Grape Varieties

Chardonnay
Chenin Blanc
Grenache
Malbec
Marsanne
Nebbiolo
Petit Verdot
Pinot Grigio
Pinot Meunier
Riesling
Tannat
Teroldego

Written By Greig Santos-Buch

Greig Santos-Buch is a Co-Founder at Winetraveler.com and a WSET 2 Merit wine writer. He works with several brands focusing on experiential and immersive-style travel. In his spare time, you can find him hiking with a bottle of Cabernet Franc in his backpack or scuba diving trying to talk a reef shark into trying Swiss wine.


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Cabernet Sauvignon Taste & Food Pairings

Fruit

The climate Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in has been known to substantially affect its taste. Cooler climate Cabernet will tend to yield a more dark-fruit forward wine. While warmer climates tend to yield more evidence of acidity and red fruit.

Blackberry

Black Cherry
Plum
Raisin
Black Currant (Cassis)

Earth & Mineral Notes

Cedar
Green Bell Pepper
Cracked Spice
Wood Smoke
Oak
Olive
Tobacco
Mushroom
Mint
Wet Gravel

Structure & Body

Depending on how and where Cabernet Sauvignon is produced, the structure of these wines can vary. For the most part, Cabernet Sauvignon is produced to be a full-bodied, dry red wine. Variations produced in the New World (such as Napa Valley), tend to be more fruit-forward, while variations produced in the Old World (such as Bordeaux), tend to have more earthy and terrior-driven complexities with less agressive fruit flavors.

Structure

Body: Full

Sugar: Dry

Tannins: Medium - High

Acid: Medium - High

Alcohol: Varied (13%-15.5% ABV)

Finish: Structured, Medium-Long

Meat & Poultry

Because of its complexity and high tannin structure, Cabernet Sauvignon is a great choice with any poultry or meat dish. The rugged spiciness of the wine combined with its dark fruit and earth will easily balance out a piece of filet mignon, lamb or braised pork ribs perfectly. Lamb, Steak, Poultry (Grilled), Pork (Grilled), Duck, Venison

Medium - Sharp Cheese

Aged Cheddar, Apple-Smoked Gouda, Asiago, Gruyère, Goat Cheese, Stilton, Blue Cheese

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