Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. It has thick skins packed with colour, flavour, and tannins and needs warmth in order to fully ripen. If it doesn’t, it gives wine unwanted stalky flavours. It is perfect for both full-bodied varietal wines and blends to which it adds its signature tannins, dark fruit, and structure. In addition to these features, it also has high acidity and alcohol, making it ideal for years of ageing. This is typical of its Bordeaux profile but, in warm to hot areas, it displays more concentrated fruit, softer tannins, and medium acidity.
Indeed, Cabernet Sauvignon is associated with the Left Bank of Bordeaux in France where it is the main grape in some of the world’s most famous and pricey blends (think Pauillac and Margaux). It is planted in most moderate, warm, and hot regions in Europe. In the New World, Stellenbosch in South Africa, Napa Valley in California, Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand, Colchagua Valley in Chile, and Coonawarra and Margaret River in Australia, are renowned for top-tier varietal Cabernet. It’s also used in blends in these regions with South Africa famous for both Bordeaux blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and Cape Blends where it is combined with Pinotage. In other New World regions, it’s blended with flagship grapes which play a similar softening role to Merlot in Bordeaux. In Australia, it blends with Shiraz while in California, it’s blended with Zinfandel. Back in Europe, Cabernet Sauvignon is a leading varietal wine in Italy’s coastal “Super Tuscan” zone and it’s also permitted in Chianti blends.
With its powerful character and relative ease of cultivation, it’s easy to see why both wine lovers and vignerons love Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fun fact: Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.