The most widely recognised of the noble red cultivars, Cabernet Sauvignon, owes much of its reputation to its success in Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon is now the most planted red cultivar in South Africa, accounting for 11.7% of red wine plantings, used either in single varietal wines or in red blends.
Genetically, Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of a crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, which is almost certain to have occurred in the 1700s in Bordeaux. Initially gaining popularity due to its resistance to botrytis, this cultivar now dominates the left bank of the Gironde Estuary, home to most of the First Growths, where it is blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc to make some of the most famous wines in the world. This fame resulted in many New World plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, with internationally recognised styles emerging in California, Australia and South Africa. Cabernet is also notable for its use in non-French blends such as the Super Tuscans of Italy, where it has been criticised as a ‘coloniser cultivar’.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a thick skinned and thus late ripening cultivar, usually planted to the warmer slopes with maximum sun exposure. Cabernet requires well drained soils to encourage deep root systems and when planted to a superior site it will produce highly structured wines with equally high acidity – both key factors in determining the ageing potential of the wine. This explains why top Cabernets are some of the longest lived wines on earth.
The highly pigmented and thick skins of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape produce inky-black wines with considerable tannic grip, a characteristic which makes Cabernet especially suited to barrel maturation. It develops the tannin structure and the vanilla and spice flavours of oak complement the classic cassis and pencil shaving notes of Cabernet perfectly.
Flavour Profile and Food Pairing
Cabernet Sauvignon typically has generous dark berry and blackcurrant flavours with graphite or pencil shaving notes and may often develop tobacco and leather flavours as it ages.
The high tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon make protein the natural pairing with a char-grilled steak being the ideal accompaniment. The weight and intensity of the flavours in Cabernet Sauvignon can withstand the flavours of mature hard cheese, with both the wine and cheese having lingering aftertastes and contrasting fruit and savoury notes.
Click here for an interesting article on The Secrets of Top Cabernet Sauvignon Brands