Cabernet Sauvignon: A noble grape

Cabernet Sauvignon: A noble grape

If you have ever tried a red wine from Bordeaux, France, you will have tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon (cab-err-nay sew-vin-yon) varietal.

Whilst the Bordeaux region is the most famous in the world for Cabernet wines, there are many other regions that produce exceptional examples too – including Australia!

Today is Cabernet Sauvignon Day, so read on as we explore all things Cabernet Sauvignon, including how it became one of the most expensive and well-known wines in the world.

A noble grape variety

Cabernet Sauvignon was first produced in the 17th century in Bordeaux, France after the spontaneous reproduction of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It's pretty incredible to think this full-bodied, unctuous red was produced from a red and a white variety!

In comparison to other well-known French varietals such as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, the discovery of Cabernet Sauvignon was relatively recent, however its rapid rise to fame was unprecedented and it is now the most widely planted grape variety in the world, with around 350,000 hectares under vine.

The rich, dark flavours that Cabernet Sauvignon produce became famous amongst wine lovers from around the world and plantings are now found across Europe and in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa. Some of the most highly sought after and collected wines are those made from Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, 20 bottles of Bordeaux are sold around the world every second!

Bordeaux Blends

Cabernet Sauvignon rose to fame in Bordeaux, with the world renowned ‘Bordeaux blend’ of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and sometimes small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec or Petit Verdot. Over 90% of wines produced in this region are red wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

If you want to try a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend, look for wines from the ‘left bank’ in Bordeaux – the Médoc (Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Saint-Estephe, Margaux and Pessac-Leognan) and Graves appellations. In comparison, wines from the ‘right bank’ of Bordeaux are Merlot dominant.

Fun fact

Interestingly, this blend was once commonly referred to as Claret in the United Kingdom. Claret was one of the most popular wines amongst royalty and high society in medieval England. It was even rumoured to have been served at the wedding of King Henry II to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152!

The popularity of Claret continued for hundreds of years, with hundreds of thousands of litres being transported to the UK across the English Channel from France in the 1700s and 1800s.

Beloved by Australia

Australian wine pioneer James Busby first brought Cabernet Sauvignon to our shores in 1832, however unfortunately the first vineyard sites planted were unsuitable for the variety to thrive and most of the vines did not survive. Due to this, Cabernet Sauvignon was initially not thought of as a high-quality wine and fruit was mainly used as a blending component.

After plantings were made in other regions of Australia, such as Coonawarra and the Barossa in the late 1800s, it became apparent that certain regions had the ultimate soil and climate for Cabernet Sauvignon and single varietal expressions became much more popular. The variety eventually made its way to Margaret River in the 1960s and arguably put this small Western Australian wine region on the world stage.

Australia is now home to the world’s oldest producing Cabernet Sauvignon vines, planted in 1886 in the northern Barossa, South Australia, however it’s more recent rise to fame in Australia can be shown in the numbers – in 1966 there were only 620 tonnes of Cabernet Sauvignon and nowadays there are over 260,000 tonnes crushed annually!

Fun fact

If you have seen the movie ‘Bottleshock’ you may be aware of the Paris Judgement, where wines from California were blind tasted against their French counterparts in the late 1970s. In this tasting, both Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from California were chosen in favour of the French wines, causing huge uproar amongst the French judges! This tasting and the media frenzy that followed, really put Cabernet Sauvignon from the New World on the map.

Common characteristics

Cabernet Sauvignon is a late ripening vine that prefers moderate, dry regions. If it’s too hot the fruit characters become less defined, but can still be used in blends – adding tannin structure and body to the wine.

High quality Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its intense colour, firm tannin structure, rich dark fruits and herbal notes. Often extremely full-bodied when young, this is a wine that improves with age.

Because Cabernet Sauvignon is related to Sauvignon Blanc, it shares a common aroma family called methoxypyrazines – famous for green capsicum aromas and flavours!

Other common aromas and flavours are:

  • Blackcurrant
  • Blackberry
  • Black cherry
  • Cedar
  • Menthol
  • Eucalyptus
  • Olive
  • Tobacco
  • Chocolate

Cabernet Sauvignon loves food

The acidity and tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon make it a wine that pairs excellently with food. Think rich meat dishes such as lamb, beef, game and braised meat dishes like ragu.

Single Varietal Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep Woods 2020 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

“Dense blackcurrant with bay leaf, gravel, dark chocolate and black olive flavours sweeping through, floral notes lifting above. It's both structured and svelte but the serious density of fruit here, in the context of vigour, is a dramatic marker of its quality, and potential longevity. This wine is not inexpensive but, it could easily be argued it's worth every cent, relative to its competitors, from here and abroad. In short, it's a fantastic red wine, full-bodied and rock solid.” – 96 Points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front

Evans & Tate 2017 Redbrook Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

“Matt Byrne's Redbrook Reserve cabernet is worthy of the same praise heaped upon prior vintages. Succulent red fruits and densely packed flavour held together with fine-knit tannins. Ready to drink now, but with a determined future in the cellar, too – this is what defines the wonder of great Margaret River cabernet.” – 96 Points, Halliday Wine Companion 2021

Dalwhinnie 2016 Moonambel Cabernet Sauvignon

“Very deep red/purple colour, in excellent condition for its age, and a bouquet of tremendous depth and character, undeniably cabernet, mellowing and with a hint of Bonox, the palate concentrated and deep, with assertive tannins and some meaty-charcuterie and toasted-nut undertones. Masses of tannins complete the picture. A very powerful, full-bodied and emphatic cabernet that is destined for a long life.”- 96 Points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review 2022

Cabernet Sauvignon Blends

Deep Woods 2020 Single Vineyard Cabernet Malbec

“…This is a sensational wine, impossibly intense and saturated with flavour, and the volume is boosted in 2020. Decant it, because the frisky malbec needs the oxygen to calm it down. It'll live an age, though.” – 96 Points, Erin Larkin, Halliday Wine Companion 2023

Evans & Tate 2018 Redbrook Estate Cabernet Merlot

“This is a cracker. Succulent red fruits on the palate, backed by salty spice and a frankly slinky texture. The tannins are shapely and seductive. The whole package is hugely impressive. But not surprising: The Redbrook range of wines rock.” – 95 Points, Halliday Wine Companion 2022

Browse all Fogarty Wine Group Cabernet Sauvignon wines and blends here and be sure to celebrate International Cabernet Sauvignon Day with a glass of wine and some delicious food!

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