Anyone who knows wine should be familiar with cabernet sauvignon, a grape variety with its origins traced back to Bordeaux in France, one of the most famous wine grape-growing areas in the world. Popularity very quickly saw this varietal planted worldwide, with key growing countries currently including Australia, the United States, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand. Today it is the most commonly grown varietal in the world, and is often blended with other grapes such as merlot and shiraz. There’s much, much more to this grape style, though – in this article we examine the characteristics of cabernet sauvignon and consider what makes this wine grape so popular.
The cabernet sauvignon flavour profile
Cabernet sauvignon, a varietal used in such esteemed wines as Penfolds Bin 707, has a rich and illustrious history. Referred to by some as the ‘King of Red Wine,’ cabernet sauvignon (or cab sav as it’s referred to by many wine drinkers), has its rather complex flavour profile to thank for its considerable popularity. It is often heralded as a wine that gets better with age due to its high tannin level as a young wine, with peak drinkability occurring after it has been aged three or four years. When it reaches this stage, the drinker can expect to experience aromas of cedar, cassis and currant, with a hint of mint not being uncommon. An organic aromatic compound group named pyrazines also contributes notes of green capsicum to the aroma. Depending on where it is grown in the world, cabernet sauvignon will also produce different flavour profiles. Old World cabernet sauvignon (grapes that were traditionally grown in Bordeaux) are said to create a more herbal wine, demonstrating flavours of graphite, violets and tobacco. New World cabernet sauvignon, such as the grapes grown in the United States and Australia, instead produce a fruit-centric flavour, with black cherry, liquorice and a touch of vanilla expected.
The history of cabernet sauvignon
As we mentioned previously, cabernet sauvignon calls Bordeaux in France home. Even though it is the Old World home the of the grape, the cab sav varietal only emerged in the late 18th century when it is believed by historians that the grape was created through the spontaneous crossing of the cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc varietals. In Bordeaux cab sav famously grows best in the rich soils of the Left Bank of the Gironde River, but it has nonetheless found great success after having been planted around the world. It has thus far been successfully planted across Eastern Europe, Italy, Spain Australia, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. Australian wine drinkers are very familiar with this varietal, with vineyards in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale growing the grapes for hundreds of years. It was actually in 1832 that the varietal found its way to Australian shores, where wine pioneer James Busby imported the grape.
Enjoying cabernet sauvignon
The tannins, acidity and alcohol present in cabernet sauvignon make it a wine perfect for the pairing of food. Its full body and complex flavour profile make it a perfect match for rich, robust red meat dishes, such as beef bourguignon, and for hard, flavourful cheeses such as aged cheddars and gouda. Even if you don’t pair it with food, cabernet sauvignon wine is a pleasure to drink it itself, and the knowing the celebrated history of the grape makes it all the sweeter.