Cabernet Sauvignon

cab-er-nay saw-vin-yawn

  • Parent's & Origin: Sauvignon Blanc + Cabernet Franc (Southwest France)
  • Grape: Small, spherical with black, thick skin
  • Flavors: Blackberry, Black Cherry, Plum, Cedar, Green Bell Pepper, Tobacco
  • Notable Regions: Bordeaux, Tuscany, Napa Valley, Sonoma County
  • Sweetness: Dry
  • Body: Full
  • Tannins: High
  • Acidity: Medium
  • ABV: 12-15.5%


The History of Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is the world's most widely planted grape. In 2015, there was a total of 842,629 acres planted worldwide. 

Despite its mass popularity, Cabernet Sauvignon is a relatively new varietal, the product of an unlikely crossing between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc in the 17th century. 

It was widely believed in the 18th century that the grape came from ancient Roman times. In fact, the pairing was so unlikely that it wasn’t until 1996 that it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Dr. Carole Meredith and a team of scientists at the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology used DNA typing to establish the true origin of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Initially recognized for its prominence in Bordeaux blends, the grape spread across Europe to the New World, spearheaded by its unique growing characteristics. Cabernet Sauvignon's tough, thick skin makes it resistant to disease and can withstand rain in autumn or other inclement weather like frost and hail. 

In addition, this grape varietal produces extremely large yields. All this, combined with its intense, full-body flavor profile, has paved the way for Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, being adaptive to different climates and terroir, it is grown in almost every major wine-producing country worldwide.

Interesting Fact: California became known for Cabernet in 1976 when an English wine merchant held a blind tasting between French and Californian wines with the top critics from France. 

Top Bordeaux Cru Classé wines like Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion were tasted blind, without the labels, against California Cabs. Now known as "The Judgement of Paris," the California wines won, disproving the belief that great wine could only be made in France!

Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings

Given the high acidity, tannins, and alcohol traditionally in Cabernet Sauvignon, it is best enjoyed with dishes rich in flavor like red meat or darker cuts of poultry.

The Best Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings

The tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon act as scrapers to the fats and proteins collected on your tongue from the food you eat. 

Typically, we like to pair ours with prime rib, ribeye, New York strip, and filet mignon (a lot of fat and/or protein in these), but it also pairs incredibly well with a rack of lamb. 

You can add sauces like a pan sauce bordelaise or rich balsamic glaze to further balance the acidity and tannins in the wine.

Food Pairings to Avoid with Cabernet Sauvignon

Avoid pasta and rice with Cabernet Sauvignon. The starches are not strong enough to balance the intense tannins characteristic of Cabernet Sauvignon. 

But remember, it depends on whether or not you enjoy it. Everyone's palate is different, and your enjoyment is the most important thing. So, if you like pasta and rice with Cabernet Sauvignon, who are we to say anything different?

Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Notes

Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with other varieties to soften the wine (just think about your traditional Bordeaux blend). Its high tannin and alcohol content reacts well to oak aging as well. 

It’s common for Cabernet Sauvignon to be aged in new oak for up to a year or more. This would kill the grape flavor with some varieties, but Cabernet Sauvignon is so big and bold that it needs it to mellow out the acidity.

Cabernet Sauvignon's Green Flavors

Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Carménère, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon all have two things in common:

  1. They are a part of what is referred to as “the Bordeaux varieties.” 
  2. Each grape has methoxypyrazine, an aromatic compound group also found in green bell pepper. This bell pepper compound has traditionally been considered a negative component in large amounts and can cause the wine to have “green” flavors. But, winemakers have learned how to reduce it over time to allow positive aromas like black pepper, green peppercorn, and sage to fill the wine.

Cool Climate vs. Warm Climate

Cabernet Sauvignon’s resilience allows it to be grown in a variety of different climates, but that doesn’t mean that the taste stays the same.

Production in cooler climates will yield a more medium-bodied wine with pronounced black fruit flavors, high tannins, and high acidity. When grown in cooler climates, the risk of tasting too “green” is pronounced, as winemakers run the risk that the grapes may not ripen fully.

In warmer climates, wines are more in line with what consumers have come to expect from Cabernet Sauvignon - big, powerful, and full-bodied. The Cabernet Sauvignon vine buds late, so in warmer climates they achieve a high degree of ripeness, altering their flavor profile when compared to the cooler climate Cabernets. These are the wines that stunned the world in "The Judgement of Paris" and completely altered the perception that only France could make great wines.

Enjoy A Top Cabernet Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s most popular and widely planted grape, and for good reason. 

Since “The Judgement of Paris,” Cab Sav wines have spread across the globe. In addition to the resiliency of the grape, the various flavors Cabernet Sauvignon can produce, depending on production methods, climate, and terroir, make it an incredibly diverse wine. 

From easy drinking Cabernet Sauvignon to Bordeaux Blends that should be aged for 20+ years, this wine varietal has something for everyone.