Cabernet sauvignon is one of the most widely planted grape varietals in the world, and it is currently the most popular red wine in the U.S. From a wine perspective, life is a cabernet my friend.
During my 12 years in the wine business, I could easily say that when it comes to red wine, most local consumers prefer cabernet. This comes as no great surprise to a self-proclaimed “pinot-file” who has been attempting to elevate the virtues of pinot noir with moderate success.
I do also, however, enjoy a good cabernet sauvignon, especially when the weather is frigid and enjoying the warmth of a fire beckons. For this activity I most often choose California cabernet.
Cabernet grapes are grown in a wide range of climates and regions throughout the world. These grapes produce a full-bodied red wine with dark fruit flavors and other notes ranging from bell pepper to tobacco. Cabernet wine is produced in as many styles as there are regions.
Obviously not all cabernet sauvignons are the same. Old World wine countries such as France, Italy and Spain produce wine from cabernet sauvignon grapes that is most often a blend of several grapes.
Bordeaux, where cabernet is the second-most planted grape, produces wine that blends cabernet with up to four other permitted grape varietals. As a broad generalization, Bordeaux from the Left Bank is generally about 70 percent cabernet.
Cabernet-based Bordeaux exhibits herbal and floral flavors of graphite, violets and tobacco that is typically more prevalent than the fruit.
They are subtle, earthy, tannic, and acidic — the best of which can age for decades. I find Bordeaux reds most enjoyable with food.
Wine from the New World — North and South America, Australia and South Africa — produces cabernet that is fruitier, tends to be less tannic, and often higher in alcohol. Lush, ripe, dark fruit flavors, and vanilla are characteristics of New World cabernet.
Although these wines can be 100 percent cabernet, many are blended with other grape varietals. In the U.S., only 75 percent of the wine must be the grape listed on the label. Winemakers often use merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, even malbec for blending, which are also the grapes used in Bordeaux.
Although this style of cabernet is food-friendly too, many of us find it quite enjoyable to sip on its own. The richness of the fruit, full mouth feel, and layers of vanilla and spice, minus strong tannins and higher acidity, make this style go down smoothly.
Cabernet sauvignon comes in nearly as many price choices, as it does styles. Great value cabernets often come from Chile, but can be found from all regions that produce cabernet.
Bordeaux and the well-known wine regions of California are well established kingdoms for cabernet. Some of the most expensive wine in the world is from Bordeaux, and Napa Valley has earned its reputation for top quality cabernet.
That’s not to say you can’t find good value cabernets from both of these regions. With so many to choose from, you could easily try a new cabernet every week this year from different regions and price points.
Uber and Lyft offer dependable rides to your destination, but for a memorable wine experience you’ll need to call a “cab”! Make 2017 your year of the cabernet.