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Cabernet Sauvignon

by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | December 08, 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon is the name of both the grape and the wine it produces. It is the basic grape of red Bordeaux in France, the grape that creates elegant wines such as Chateau Lefite-Rothschild and Chateau Latour and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Cabernet Sauvignon is known as one of the world's finest red wines, with its depth of complexity and richness of flavor. Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich full-bodied red wine. It is aged in oak with the typical flavors being that of black currant, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, bell pepper, chocolate and sometimes spice flavors, such as vanilla and black pepper. To make these wines drinkable sooner they are often blended with other grapes.

Because of the high tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine starts off very complex, and with a harsh flavor. But with aging, first in oak barrels and then in bottles, the Cabernet Sauvignon wine softens and smooths out the flavor. The best Cabernets age for decades and the rest are deliciously enjoyed much earlier.

Begin With the Grapes

Like all wines, Cabernet Sauvignon wine starts with the grapes. The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is easy to spot on vines due to its blue color. Most other red wine grapes are either red or purple. The Cabernet Sauvignon berries are small, circular, and thick, with very tough skin. This toughness makes the grapes fairly resistant to disease and spoilage and able to withstand some autumn rains with little damage. These grapes tend to ripen mid to late season. Their growth characteristics, along with the flavor appeal have made Cabernet Sauvignon one of the most popular red wine varieties worldwide.

Genetic testing has shown that Cabernet Sauvignon sprang into life in the 1600s when nearby plants of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc happened to fertilize each other, creating a cross of a new child vine. Local farmers realized how well this new vine was doing and began taking cuttings of it. Vine cuttings are how all grape varieties in the world are spread and developed. Grapes cannot be planted from seed and have a child identical to the parent.

The best growing sites for producing quality wines from Cabernet Sauvignon are in moderately warm, semi-arid regions providing a long growing season, on well-drained, not-too-fertile soils. California has the perfect climate to grow Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It is sometimes called the Cabernet wine's second home due to the amount and quality grown there. Napa Valley and Alexander

Valley are two of the top wine regions for Cabernet Sauvignon in California. California Cabernets are usually single varietal wines. This means the wine is created using close to 100% Cabernet grapes. In California, the Cabernet Sauvignon is the most successful European red varietal wine. It is responsible for the best California red wines and is widely cultivated. California producers have been highly successful in vinifying European style wines from this grape, and a number of California Cabernets have overcome the best wines from Bordeaux in blind taste tests.

In Bordeaux in France, the tradition is to use Cabernet Sauvignon in a blend. The Bordeaux Blend is a very popular blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Australia also has the perfect climate for Cabernet Sauvignon. It's the second most planted grape there. In Australia, Shiraz wine is added to the Cabernet Sauvignon, giving the wine a spicy pepper flavor.

Cabernet Sauvignon History

Cabernet Sauvignon wine first became popular in the Bordeaux region in France back in the 17th century. Its parents are Cabernet Franc and the white wine Sauvignon Blanc. The crossing of these two varietals created the Cabernet Sauvignon we know today. The massive spread of Cabernet Sauvignon came in Europe in the 1800's when it was used to replant the vineyards that were ravaged by the phylloxera disease. It became the primary grape of the famous Bordeaux blends from Medoc and Graves. Other names that Cabernet Sauvignon has been or is known by include: Petit Cabernet, Petit Vidure and Vidure, and in Italy, Uva Francese. The popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon wines spread around the word, especially in California, where high quality Cabernets reign high.

Purchasing Cabernet Sauvignon

When purchasing Cabernet Sauvignon wines you can choose to spend a lot of money for respected well known labels that cost several hundred dollars or you can look for second label wines. These are the Cabernet Sauvignon wines made from good grapes, but grapes that are not quite good enough for a wineries’ name brand label. Instead of wasting the grapes, many wineries make another wine under a second label and sell it for much less. Finding second label wines allows you to get a taste of the wineries flavor and style for a fraction of the cost of their more well-known wine. Whether you purchase a well-known brand label or a second label, you will not be disappointed in the choice of selecting a Cabernet Sauvignon wine. The full bodied flavor will keep you coming back for more.

Serving Tips

If possible, it is best to let a Cabernet Sauvignon wine age for a while before drinking it. This makes the wine less tannic and more full of flavor. The best serving temperature for Cabernet wines is between 55°to 65°. Decanting younger, more tannic Cabernets will increase your enjoyment of these wines. Cabernet goes well with beef, lamb and goose, especially when cooked with herbs. It also is a great equal when served with brie, cheddar cheese and chocolate.

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