The thick black skin on the Cabernet Sauvignon grape packs a punch, with deep colours, lots of tannins and scrumptious aromas in the resulting wines. Cab Sav grapes do best in moderate to hot climates with dryer soils (they don’t like getting their feet wet, kind of like me). They are pretty hardy and aren’t often susceptible to rot or pests and they bud late so frost isn’t usually a problem.
Unlike the Pinot Noirs and Rieslings, Cab Savs are often blended. They bring structure like tannins, acidity and aromatic fruit to the table which may help beef up some other less intense grapes. They are commonly blended with Merlot (Bordeaux anyone), Shiraz, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Carménère grapes which help soften the Cab Sav and enhance the richness.
Because of the structure of Cab Savs (tannins and acidity), the resulting wines can age quite nicely which will bring out mushroom, wet leaves, game, and tobacco flavours. So, no rush to power through all your Cab Savs. Also, because of the structure, Cab Savs are often oaked to help soften the tannins. With oak comes vanilla, cedar, and charred wood deliciousness.
Should you give a Cabernet Sauvignon a go? Yes, but that would be my answer to all wines, so if any of this sounds delicious to you then yes, if not, try another grape dominant blend first and work your way up.
- Deep colour
- High tannins
- High acidity
- Medium to full body (mostly full bodied)
- Strong aromas/flavours that will jump out of your glass:
- Black fruit (blackberry, black current, blueberry, bramble and black cherry)
- Herbaceous (green pepper, mint, eucalyptus) – especially from moderate climates
- Black olive – found in hotter climates
- Age notes (mushroom, wet leaves, game, and tobacco)
- Oak flavours (Vanilla, charred wood, cedar and smoke)
Bordeaux is probably the commonly known region for Cab Savs, but there are lots of other regions that produce great Cab Sav wines. If you want to stick to the classic region, look at Left Bank Bordeaux regions as the grapes are often Cab Sav dominant blends with Merlot, whereas the Right Bank is the opposite. Great Left Bank sub regions are; Medoc, Haut Medoc, Paullic and Graves. Bordeaux is considered a moderate climate so do not be surprised if some green pepper or mint comes out in the wine.
The other great Cab Sav producing regions are
- Margaret River, Australia
- Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
- Napa, and Rutherford, USA
- Mendoza, Argentina
- Stellenbosch, South Africa
These are generally considered hotter climates so you may see more black olive in this lot.
Over the next few weeks I will be exploring some great Cab Savs and letting you know what I think. It is timely (or well planned) as there is nothing better to warm you up on a cold winter’s day than a large glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. It beats hot chocolate hands down. I hope you join me in the tasting and feel free to comment on my Instagram or blog posts with your thoughts.