What is Cabernet Sauvignon?

It is likely one of the most widely recognized wines on the planet, but what is Cabernet Sauvignon?  In simplest terms, it is characterized by its dark hue, full-bodied nature; with moderate acidity, high tannin structure and complex aromas of fruit and spices.  Its ability to grow in diverse climates allows Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to be one of the most-planted grape varietals leading to unique and diverse wine characteristics.  While all of this describes this beautiful wine it doesn’t answer what is Cabernet Sauvignon.  Compared with other grape varietals it remains a relatively new grape and demonstrates the remarkable combination of two different grape varietals: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.  In fact, the mystery surrounding its origin wasn’t solved until 1996 when researchers from University of California Davis were able to scientifically prove the question of “what is Cabernet Sauvignon?”

Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Profile

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were believed to originate in southwestern France during the 17th century and continued to grow in popularity within the Bordeaux region of France well into the 18th century.  The high levels of tannins with medium-to-high acidity provided the foundation for evolving flavors through years of aging in barrels.  Continued experimentation with Cabernet Sauvignon in combination with other varietals led to the creation of arguably the most famous wine – the Bordeaux blend.  The popularity of the Bordeaux blends on a global scale allowed increased familiarity with the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal and eventually solidifying its introduction within the United States.  It wasn’t until the 1970’s that California Cabernet was able to take its place amongst the world’s best Cabernet Sauvignon’s when Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars bested renowned Bordeaux estates in a blind wine tasting event conducted by French Wine experts.  From that point forward, the number of Cabernet vineyards significantly increased within the United States.

As with other described wines, climate and regional differences largely influence the terroir and styles of Cabernet Sauvignon.  However, one could argue that due to the relative “ease” with which Cabernet grapes grow the diversity in styles is pronounced when compared to other grape varietals.  Additionally, timing of harvest can play a profound difference on the flavors an individual wine may elicit.  For instances, grapes harvested earlier in the season (“under-ripe” grapes) will exhibit vegetal or green bell pepper flavors while overripe grapes will develop “jammy” tendencies.  Further, wines from California will produce more pronounced fruit flavors while Old World wines will have more earthy notes with less forward fruit flavors.  Universal Cabernet Sauvignon tastes consist of tobacco, pepper, dark fruits and potentially hints of vanilla.

We would be remiss if we failed to comment on pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with food – the combination is as classic as peanut butter and jelly.  You simply can’t consider one without the other.  The complexity of Cabernet with tannins, alcohol content and acidity provides the perfect accompaniment to hearty dishes that can stand up to the bold nature of the wine – think steak.  However, the pairing of Cabernet with food goes well beyond this simplistic approach – one that we will revisit in a subsequent discussion.

Tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon is best when using Bordeaux or oversized (bold red) glasses to help enhances the aromas of these complex wines.  Storage temperature should be consistent with normal cellar temperature of 55-60 F.  It possess great aging capabilities – generally well beyond 10 years for higher quality wines.  The price range for Cabernet is quite diverse ranging from $10-15 all the way to several hundreds of dollars.

So, what is Cabernet Sauvignon?  It is a delightful creation that teases the palate and takes all your worries away – enjoy the complexities and subtleties of this unique wine.

See the following more detailed assessment of Cabernet Sauvignon Wines that we have tried:

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Is there a particular Cabernet Sauvignon that you have tried and loved?  Please let us know – we are always in search of new finds!!  If you have any comments or thoughts we would love to hear from you.  Check us out on Twitter or Instagram for more wine info as well as our wine-venture!