We say that people can be “thick-skinned”, but grapes can be as well: Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have an incredibly thick skin which make them very resistant to heat, frost and molds. The thick skins also equate to a higher level of tannins (since the majority of the wine’s tannins come from the skin of the grapes) which means that Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent grape to blend with other varieties in order to add some “backbone” to the wine; in addition, it means that the wines will age quite well and are more apt to be cellared than most other varietals. Perhaps this is why Cabernet Sauvignon earns the title of “The King of Red Grapes”.
Although it reigns as the leader in hectare growth in Bordeaux, France, Cabernet Sauvignon has also placed California’s Napa Valley on the map as a quality wine producing region. It was the most widely planted grape for the majority of the 20th century (up until the 1990s when it was surpassed by Merlot). Cabernet Sauvignon’s bold tannins and aging ability–along with its ability to thrive in numerous climates and continents–ensures that it will continue to be a leading red wine grape for years to come. Today, it is grown worldwide: France, California, Chile, Argentina and Australia are some of the top producers.
From the everyday drinkers of Argentina to the aged, silky Cabs of Napa Valley, there is a wide range of Cabernet Sauvignon on the market. In general, blackberry, black currant, cassis, mint, eucalyptus, cedarwood, leather and plum are Cabernet qualities. A wine that tastes of bell pepper is poorly made.
Since Cabernet Sauvignon is typically very tannic and often has a lot of oak presence as well, fats and proteins are the best pairing options. Grilling, smoking and roasting different dishes will impart a bitter flavor into the food, which pairs well with the bitter tannins of the Cabernet. Spices that are commonly found in Cabernet Sauvignon—including dill, bell pepper, green olive, peppercorn, and ginger—also pair well. Dark chocolate and mild cheeses (cheddar or brie) are also great accompaniments. Stay away from sweeter milk chocolate and heavier cheeses like blue or Roquefort.
Serve Cabernet Sauvignon at 65 degrees.
Recommendations for high-end Cabernets from Napa Valley:
Chateau Montelena, Darioush, Duckhorn, Heitz Cellar, Honig, Nickel & Nickel, Whitehall Lane, ZD
Argentine Cabernet/Cabernet blend recommendations:
Achaval Ferrer “Chimera”, Alta Vista, Bodega Escorihuela, Bramare, Carlos Pulenta, Carmelo Patti, Felino, La Madrid, Sur de los Andes, Tapiz Reserva, Valbona, Vistalba, Weinert