One of the red wine grape varietals most widely known worldwide is Cabernet Sauvignon.
It’s grown in a wide range of temperatures, from Australia and British Columbia, Canada, to Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, in almost every major wine-producing nation.
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Cabernet Sauvignon Wine - The Ultimate Guide
Cabernet Sauvignon is a incredibly popular red wine also commonly known as:
- Cabernet sov
- Cab sauv
- Cabernet grape
In this guide, we go over everything you need to know about cabernet sauvignon.
What is Cabernet Sauvignon?
Cabernet Sauvignon’s international red wine grape variety is used to create the full-bodied, acidic red wine called Cabernet Sauvignon.
Strong tannins that mature well are present.
The average alcohol content of Cabernet Sauvignon wines is between 13 - 14% ABV.
Cabernet Sauvignon has it all:
- Potential for fruit
Furthermore, name recognition along with chardonnay and Merlot, this was one of the wine varieties that caused non-wine drinkers in the United States to take notice in the 1980s.
Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine Characteristics
Cabernet Sauvignon wines are beautifully balanced and deliver the perfect combination of acidity, tannins, sweetness, alcohol levels, and body. Here are some interesting characteristics:
- Cabernet Sauvignon Alcohol Levels: These wines typically have an alcohol-by-volume rating of 13.5 to 15% ABV.
- Cabernet Sauvignon Sweetness Levels: Cab Sav is a dry red wine with low residual sugar levels. It’s neither sweet nor medium and best suited to those with a dry palette.
- Cabernet Sauvignon Acidity Levels: This red wine is high in acidity and slightly tart with just the right amount of pucker on the tongue.
- Cabernet Sauvignon Tannin Levels: Cab Sav is high in polyphenols and has high tannin levels. These characteristics lend to its dry, velvety flavour. This wine ages exceptionally well in wine cellars, making it ideal for collectors.
- Cabernet Sauvignon Body: These red wines are medium to full-bodied. Slightly heavier than a Merlot but lighter when you compare a Malbec vs Cabernet.
Serving & Storing Cabernet Sauvignon
Red wines like cabernet sauvignon should be chilled and taste their best when served slightly cooler than room temperature, at roughly 16°C or 60°F.
The best way to do this is using a wine fridge.
Storing Opened Cabernet Sauvignon
Any sort of chilling could appear inappropriate when it comes to red wine because its features are best displayed at higher temperatures.
However, you put opened red wine in the refrigerator, as cooler temperatures cause chemical reactions, including oxidation, to proceed more slowly, and so it will last longer.
Do You Let Cabernet Sauvignon Breath Before Drinking?
Yes, you should let cabernet sauvignon breath before drinking:
For a young, mid-level, or higher California Cabernet Sauvignon, you will need to let it breath for approximately 1 hour.
You can drink it straight away, but giving the wine a little bit more time to air will help it perform at its best.
Does Cabernet Sauvignon Go Off?
Like most wines, Cabernet Sauvignon will go off if not consumed within two to three years of its expiration date, but thanks to its high tannin content, this red wine ages beautifully for seven to ten years.
If you don’t have a walk in wine cellar, keep it in a darkened space, preferably below room temperature and away from humidity.
Once opened, Cabernet Sauvignon red wines will stay fresh for 4-6 days, providing you seal them with the original cork (or screw cap) and store them in a wine fridge.
How can you tell if your red wine has gone off?
Look at the appearance.
Has it gone cloudy, changed colour or developed bubbles?
Does it smell like vinegar or sherry?
If so, the chances are that it has gone off. If you are still unsure, taste it.
A bad Cab Sav will taste sour.
Tasting Notes of Cabernet Sauvignon
Wines made from cabernet sauvignon can range from fruity and scrumptious to savoury and smokey.
It all depends on the region where the Cabernet Sauvignon has grown and the wine-making process.
Below are some of the top cabernet producing locations and their flavours:
- Black Currant
- Pencil Lead
- Plum Sauce
- Tobacco Leaf
The “OG” growing region for Cabernet Sauvignon is unquestionably Bordeaux.
You can get some of the most flavourful and age-worthy interpretations of the grape in this region.
Nevertheless, you won’t find a lot of single-varietal Cab here; instead, the majority is incorporated into the area’s renowned “Bordeaux Blend.”
Bordeaux’s gravelly soils are ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon’s performance.
So, if you’re searching for a wine with a predominant Cabernet Sauvignon flavour, check out the Médoc, Graves, and gravelly parts of the Côtes de Bourg and Blaye sub-regions.
North Coast, California
- Black Currant
- Pencil Lead
The exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon-producing regions of the North Coast AVA (American Viticulture Area) are Napa Valley, Sonoma, and a few other lesser-known areas.
The region became famed for its Cabernet when the leading French wine experts participated in blind testing of French and Californian wines in 1976.
The Californian wines triumphed in what became known as “The Judgement of Paris,” demonstrating that excellent wine could be produced elsewhere.
- Bay Leaf
- Black Plum
- Currant Candy
- White Pepper
Red clay soils with high iron-oxide concentration, known as “Terra Rossa,” and a warm climate are characteristics of the Coonawarra region of South Australia.
This region is renowned for its remarkable (and distinctive) interpretations of Cabernet Sauvignon and Langhorne Creek.
These wines have a substantial body, firm tannins, and noticeable notes of the bay leaf or white pepper.
Australian Cabernet wines of excellent grade are frequently packaged in screw-cap bottles.
So don’t let the bottle top stop you!
Tasting notes of Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile:
- Baking Spices
- Black Cherry
- Fig Paste
- Green Peppercorn
Regarding high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile has some of the most significant values.
Even though Chile’s enormous Central Valley produces a lot of wine that is exported, the most outstanding Cabernet is made in the Aconcagua, Maipo, Cachapoal, and Colchagua Valleys.
One of the best Mediterranean climates for Cabernet Sauvignon can be found in Maipo Valley, sandwiched between the scorching, landlocked Andes Mountains and the cooling Pacific Ocean breezes.
The sub-region Alto Maipo is where you may get Maipo wines of the highest calibre.
Types of Cabernet Sauvignon Wine
The type of cab sav you want to try, depends on the flavour profiles you enjoy in your wine.
Use the following region guide to choose:
New world cab savs typically develop a sense of richness and weight in California and the southern hemisphere countries like:
- South Africa
- New Zealand
The best wines here may age for decades and are full of flavours like blackcurrant, mint, and occasionally green bell pepper.
Old world cab savs are your classic French bottles, famously shown in Bordeaux’s great clarets.
They tend to have a brooding character, with robust tannins adding structure and blackcurrant fruit shining through.
One of the most outstanding blending partnerships of the wine world was forged here: the marriage of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc.
It is a relationship that has travelled the globe, making some of the best wines in the world.
Cabernet Sauvignon’s History
Through its prominence in Bordeaux wines, where it’s frequently mixed with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon gained recognition on a global scale.
Vinyards & Growing
The grape originated in France and Spain.
It spread throughout Europe and the New World.
Then, it settled in regions like:
- Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles and Napa Valley in the US
- Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand,
- Stellenbosch in South Africa,
- Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra in Australia,
- Maipo Valley and Colchagua in Chile.
It held that title for most of the 20th century until Merlot overtook it in the 1990s as the world’s most extensively planted premium red wine grape.
However, with 341,000 hectares (3,410 km2) of vines globally by 2015, Cabernet Sauvignon had once more overtaken other wine grape varieties as the most extensively planted variety.
Cab Sauv Grape
Despite its popularity in the industry, the grape is a relatively recent development; it was created in southwestern France in the 17th century due to an accidental cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
The grapes have thick skins, and the vines are hardy, naturally low yielding, budding late to avoid frost, and resistant to viticultural hazards like rot and insects.
Its popularity is frequently attributed to its ease of cultivation and consistent presentation of structure and flavours that express the variety’s typical character (“typicity”).
Because of familiarity, consumers have been more likely to purchase Cabernet Sauvignon wines from unexpected wine regions.
Because of its broad appeal, the grape has also been criticised for “colonising” wine regions at the expense of local grape varietals.
The traditional characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon include full-bodied wines with strong tannins and discernible acidity, which add to the wine’s ability to age. Cabernet Sauvignon tends to produce wines with blackcurrant notes in colder areas.
Cabernet Sauvignon Aromas
These aromas may also be joined by mint, cedar, and green bell pepper flavours, all of which will become stronger as the wine ages.
Black currant aromas are frequently combined with black cherry and black olive notes in more temperate climates.
However, the currant flavours can lean more toward the “jammy” and overripe end of the spectrum in sweltering climes.
Some regions of Australia, especially the Coonawarra wine area in South Australia, are known for their Cabernet Sauvignon wines, which frequently include eucalyptus or menthol flavours.
Cabernet Sauvignon Vs Other Wines
Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, which is sweeter?
Technically, neither Merlot nor Cabernet Sauvignon is sweet.
However, Merlot tends to taste fruitier and, therefore, sweeter.
Cabernet Sauvignon vs Pinot Noir
Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are both dry red wines.
They have similar low residual sugar levels, much like Petite Syrah and Merlot wines, but cav sav has higher tannin levels, making it drier than Pinot Noir but not sweeter. Take a look at our full guide on Pinot Noir Vs Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Sauvignon vs Malbec
Cabernet Sauvignon compared to Malbec - both are fruity red wines, Malbec is typically drier and more full-bodied.
Neither is sweet.
Malbec wines produced in France taste very different to those made in Argentina, so Cab Sav is a safer choice for food pairings and entertaining friends.
Cabernet Sauvignon vs Sauvignon Blanc
They may come from the same type of grape, but Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wines are worlds apart.
One is a dark-berry red wine rich in tannins the other is a bright and fruity white wine with vibrant citrus, elderflower, and passion fruit aromas.
Both wines are dry rather than sweet and appeal to wine drinkers worldwide.
Why is Cabernet Sauvignon Wine so popular?
The success of Cabernet Sauvignon as a good wine resides in its subtleties:
Secondary, complex flavours that can develop delectably in bottle over time, whereas many grape varietals are noted for their pleasant fruit scents.
Due to this, Cabernet is frequently thought of as a “serious” red wine meant to be aged and stored for a long time.
Undoubtedly, some younger, fruitier varieties are available that assist you in discovering the flavours of this renowned grape.
Does Cabernet Sauvignon Tastes Like Green Peppers?
The numerous Bordeaux grapes collectively referred to as “the Bordeaux variety” are connected to Cabernet Sauvignon.
An aromatic chemical group in the Bordeaux cultivars is also present in green pepper, which is one of the remarkable similarities between both (called methoxypyrazine).
You might detect hints of bell pepper, graphite, green peppercorn, or even green pepper when you smell Cabernet Sauvignon.
The bell pepper compound has long been considered a “green” flaw in Bordeaux wines.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of consumers favour fruity wines!
So, viticulturists discovered how to use specific pruning techniques to lessen the “greenness” in wine.
Other popular types of red wine:
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