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Everything You Need to Know About Cabernet Sauvignon

Everything You Need to Know About Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet sauvignon is one of the most popular and widely planted red grape varietals in the world. Part of its attraction is that it has a distinctive and very recognizable taste no matter where it is grown — which is perhaps why today we can find it in just about any wine growing region which is reasonably warm.

According to Jose Vouillamoz, a botanist specializing in grape DNA, cabernet sauvignon is actually a relatively young varietal, only appearing in the 18th century as the result of a "natural" crossing of sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc in one of the many co-planted Bordeaux vineyards. Part of its immediate success came about because it’s a very obliging grape to grow: fairly disease resistant, and easy to vinify. Baron Hector de Brane of Château Mouton and Armand d'Armailhacq, of Château Armailhac (later purchased by Baron Philippe de Rothschild), are credited with the promotion and promulgation of the variety in the Médoc, where it quickly became the most widely planted variety.

King Cab the Colonizer

In the last 50 years, cabernet sauvignon has been viewed as an aristocratic and magnificent grape variety capable of producing fruit-forward, powerful young drinking wines as well as complex and sublime long lived wines. Moreover, cabernet sauvignon has a distinctive and very memorable flavor profile, making it a consumer favorite. For many red wine drinkers, the wines and brands became increasingly, consistently recognizable.

As its commercial success increased, so did the number of regions and countries where cabernet sauvignon was planted. Its genius ability to modernize and spice up most red blends added to its rampant colonization in vineyards all over the world.

From winery to winery, the high concentration of phenolics in the varietal allows for extended maceration times, resulting in deeply colored and tannic wines. Furthermore, cabernet sauvignon’s startling affinity with new oak creates wines where black currant flavors seamlessly blend with vanilla and sweet spicy notes. The strong tannic structure, deep color, and fruit-forward characteristic also are the reason why cabernet sauvignon tends to hijack most blends it has been added to. Its powerful personality seems to add the exact amount of "trendiness" to a traditional blend, giving it a broader appeal for most red wine drinkers.

King Cab, the brand, thus became the key that would open doors in restaurants and stores in the U.S., the U.K., Asia and, eventually, the rest of the world.

Blend or Single Varietal?

Whilst it’s true that cabernet sauvignon is relatively easy to grow in most wine regions which are warm enough, and will produce a wine that is easily recognizable, there are very few regions in the world where cabernet sauvignon by itself is better than the blend. Even in its native Bordeaux, cabernet sauvignon is rarely bottled as a single varietal. Instead it’s generally blended with the much fatter merlot and perfumed cabernet franc. In Spain, cabernet sauvignon is often blended with tempranillo, especially in the regions of Navarra and Cataluña; in Tuscany, it is often blended with sangiovese, though some super Tuscan’s are single cabernet sauvignon varietal wines.

A lot of excellent single varietal examples come from the New World. The Napa and Sonoma Valleys are two regions in California which are well known for producing some excellent cabernet sauvignons. There is quite a big difference between hillside and valley floor wines: the hillside wines tend to have smaller berries and lower yields, resulting in more intense and austere wines, which are slower to mature and more elegant than the more opulent and fruit-forward valley floor wines.

Australia is another region were cabernet sauvignon fares very well as a single varietal, especially in Coonawarra and Margaret River. Both regions are coastal and a little cooler than more inland wine growing regions, and Coonawarra’s Terra Rosso soils tend to bring out the fine structure and more minty fruit flavors in Coonawarra’s cabs. The wines from Margaret River are tightly structured, with a lot of black fruit flavors and kitchen herb notes.

Click here to learn more about cabernet sauvignon.

— Caroline Henry, Snooth

Pretentiously Sipping

Although it has been hundreds of years, the Cabernet Sauvignon continues to be the champion wine that is produced out of Bordeaux, France. However, in recent decades, the Sauvignon has actually grown even greater in popularity and is now a totally cherished grape worldwide. This has occurred even though there is some prime wine-making terrority in Chile, Australia, Italy, Spain, and the Napa Valley.

Why is this so? Well, for one thing, Cabernet Sauvignon has the unparalleled ability to age as gracefully as possible. It continues to remain a highly prized variety as one of the world’s most recognized wines. Experts and Cabernet Sauvignon enthusiasts alike will now weigh in on five of the most important facts you need to know regarding the “king of grapes”, Cabernet Sauvignon:

Cabernet Sauvignon: It Can Grow Just About Anywhere, But It Really Thrives in a Maritime Environment

“Cabernet Sauvignon is a very adaptable grape,” viticulturist Ann Kraemer explains. She is based in Northern California and she done work in many different California Cabernet vineyards. Cain Vineyard and Winery and Shafer Vineyards in particular have retained her on a regular basis. “Good Cab can be made just about anywhere,” she continued. “But the special sites where Cabernet can go to its peak are very rare.”

There is no question that Cabernet is a very hardy grape variety, as it exists in almost every wine-growing region throughout the world. However, you must realize where Cabernet will naturally thrive. Areas where there is a regular amount of ocean breezes will help the grape grow the best, simply because Cabernet will keep cool. If the vines get too hot, the vineyard’s Cabernet will not be quite as good. The berries have the right amount of acidity in order to produce top-notch Cabernet.

Indeed, the most celebrated sites for Cabernet are almost always by a large coastal body of water. They are capable of producing wines that have one of the best balances, and this holds true in both the young wines and the aged wines as well. In Bordeaux, we have a location that overlooks the North Atlantic, and those winds will keep those vineyards as cool as possible. The fact that the Grionde estuary is nearby also adds to Bordeaux’s ability to create a potent Cabernet Sauvignon. By the same token, the Pacific Ocean does an excellent job of keeping all of the vineyards in the Napa Valley as cool as possible. Vineyards in Australia will usually do best when they are situated along the Margaret River, and the vineyards of Tuscany are able to produce a good Cab variety because they have the benefit of the nearby Tyrrhenian Sea. Kraemer also notes that the best Cabs will always have a good balance between tannin, acidity, and fruit.

Cabernet Sauvignon: A Special Chemical Make-Up Helping it Reign Supreme

In order to be top dog in the wine cellar, the Cabernet Sauvignon will start with the very vine itself. This variety is a cross between Cabernet Blanc and Cabernet Franc, and it also will have a tiny amount of black berries with an explosion of tanning molecules and complex colors. These dinstinct chemical compounds will help the wine have the dark color that they have become known for. It also will pack a punch with its signature powerful chemical make-up, making it a fantastic choice for long-term cellar storage.

Chris Munro works for Christie’s Head of Wine, and he points out that this basic structure is not only essentially the skeleton of the wine, but it is also one of the main components that makes Cabernet wines such a valuable seller at auctions worldwide: “Cabernet has such a unique ability to age gracefully,” he said. “That definitely makes it very special, and it is one of the hallmarks of one of the greatest wines the world has ever known.”

Cabernet Sauvignon Has One of the Best Flavor Signatures and a Remarkably Distinct Aroma

Cabernet Sauvignon undoubtedly has a unique chemical makeup, and that makes for it to have a flavor that is truly classic and instantly recognizable among wine aficionados. This aromatic profile has a vast repertoire of fruits, including blackberry, plum, pepper, and a wonderful mouthfeel, to say the least.

Munro unquestionably has a rich description for even the younger versions of Cabernet, noting that the signature has a “Richness from the cassis and the blackberry, and it has a great touch of sweetness that pairs really nicely with the dried tannins.” Part of the reason that the Cabernet gets better with age would have to be because the tannin will not be as astringnet. Moreover, the fruit is not as ripe and takes on more of a floral, secondary, or earthy quality. Of course, Munro does have some advice for those who prefer aged wines. In short, they should expect “A tannin that is highly softened along with secondary and tertiary flavors. However, the wine will still balance out very well.”

When you are looking for built-in flavor and a fascinating and complex aroma, you really can’t go wrong with the Cabernet. When you blend it together, winemakers get the chance to soften the edges in a very thorough manner. Blending will also go a long way in balancing out the tannins and heavy fruit flavors. You can also lessen the acidity from a less-than-perfect climate or vintage if you do the blending.

Pioneered by the Bordelaise, Cabernet Sauvignon came about because it was originally a tremendous challenge to make a good wine from a ripened grape in the Bordeaux climate. Of course, Merlot and Cabernet Franc were pretty good about ripening, but they didn’t have the structure to keep very well. However, all of the classic Bordeaux blends will deftly balance tanning, fruit, and spice. Thus, they are often mimicked globally simply because they can combine the signature qualities of the Cabernet and also have the best elements of all of the other grapes as well. There is a truly a harmony of flavors in this case. Munro and Kraemer both agree that “a great wine is always going to be about balance. You find silky tannins, richness, and acidity.”

Winemakers in Spain and Italy will often use Cabernet Sauvignon as a blending protocol as a method to try to capture that balance. You see, Cabernet Sauvignon can be a core that is accented by these grape varieties. In Tuscany, we have wines such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia that will attempt to blend Cabernet Sauvignon with the Sangiovese brand. Additionally, the Ribera del Duero vineyard has the Vega Sicilia brand coupled with the Tempranillo and the Cab. Australia has their Penfolds Grange vineyard, and they will often use their most valuable bottling, which is the Shiraz, and they are often more than happy to combine it with the Cabernet Sauvignon as well.

All Occasions Call For a Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon will always be known as an absolute rockstar in the cellar. However, there are plenty of winemaking methods, styles and terroir that can provide an artistic sculpture of wines that will give you an early and easy drinking experience. If you decide to collect this type of wine, you should realize the importance of selecting a wine based upon your drinking window, goals, and preferred characteristics.

One of the things that Munro will always point out is that exploration is always key to discovering which variety of the Cabs that you enjoy the most. You should build a collection around the ones you enjoy best. “You learn about wine, and then you build a collection around them, and that is unquestionably one of life’s great pleasures,” he said. “That is why you go to your local store, do some tastings, and go to a wine-producing area, if not Bordeaux itself. When you learn as much as possible, then you are able to buy the wines that you will enjoy drinking.”

The star power of Costco's wine is purposefully advertised

"I insisted on it, actually," Smith explained of the private-label collaboration. "To me, writing a book without putting the author's name on it seems like a waste. I mean, you might be a fan of that author, and how otherwise are you going to discover it? One should own up to their work." And, of course, the fact that Charles Smith's wineries are award-winning helps as well. In their announcement of the K Vine line, Food & Wine mentions that Smith won the 2009 Food & Wine Winemaker of the Year title.

When asked which varietal K Vine might release next, Charles Smith told Costco Connection, "We have to think about the members and give them what they want. I try to give people what they want and make it two levels higher in quality and two levels lower in price."

Costco shoppers might already be familiar with Smith's Wines of Substance. Costco Wine Blog was a big fan of the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon sold as a Washington State Wine at Costco for $13. They granted it 90 points: "Dark on the pour, thick and intimidating in the glass nose brings fresh juicy berries, herbs and earth, leading into more dark fruit, blackberries, blueberries and chocolate notes firm tannins with a lasting finish. This is a wine you wouldn't balk at paying twice as much for." So, if you already like the Cabernet Sauvignon, you now have a new deal to excitedly look forward to.

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For years, wine cocktails got a bad rap, and it was almost exclusively because of a thing called the wine cooler. Like yacht rock and The Golden Girls, wine coolers are associated with a different time in American culinary history, a time before artisanal cocktails and craft beer were listed on every other restaurant's menu.

Now the butt of jokes, wine coolers are made from a combination of wine, fruit juice, carbonated water, and sometimes sugar. But trace the history of the wine cooler and it leads to the wine spritzers of Eastern Europe and tintos de verano of Spain. Since the 1980s wine coolers have been mass produced, bottled, and sold in six-packs they come in dozens of shades of pink and many different, often sickly sweet flavors.

Thankfully, the wine cooler is not the only wine cocktail around. The history of wine in cocktails is as old as civilization itself: Once early man discovered that fruit juices fermented into a boozy beverage, it was only a matter of time before the concept of distilling to further enhance a beverage's ethanol content was realized. Prior to the successful advent of alcohol distillation in the 13th century, it's likely that humans got drunk off of wine and wine mixed with other liquids, honey, spices, and herbs.

Wine is an indispensable cocktail ingredient.

By definition, at base, a cocktail consists of a distilled spirit, sugar, and a bitter. Though this definition is no longer commonly employed, it's an easy way to see how wine can fit into a cocktail, either as the distilled spirit (brandy), a sweetener (sparkling wine), or the bitter (vermouth). On top of its base ingredients, a cocktail can contain any number of liquids, fruits, infusions, dilutions, and flavorings. Wine, or a beverage made from wine, adds complexity to the sharp taste of high proof spirits, and is an indispensable ingredient behind the modern bar.

Regular young or aged wine sometimes finds its way into cocktails. For example, the classic French aperitif known as the Kir is a combination of crème de cassis (a black currant liqueur) and white wine. But most wines used in cocktails today are sparkling, fortified, aromatized, or distilled spirits made from wine. It's a mistake to think a cocktail that contains wine is lower in alcohol content than one that does not. This is sometimes the case, as in a spritzer or sangria, but not the case in a Sidecar or French 75.

Here now is a primer to the most common ways wine is used in cocktails today, starting with the precursor to the much-maligned wine cooler of the ‘70s and ‘80s, a popular wine cocktail known as a spritzer.

Wine Spritzer: A combination of wine, usually white or rose, and bubbly water served chilled.

As with most alcoholic beverages, the history of the wine spritzer is murky. It may have originated in Hungary in the mid-1800s, but most certainly appeared somewhere in Eastern Europe during that century. According to The Sage Encyclopedia of Alcohol: Social, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives, spritzers are German in origin. Because the drink of the ease of its preparation and consumption, spritzers spread quickly throughout the wine drinking world. As previously mentioned, they led to the advent of the wine cooler, a tainted version of the classic drink. Numerous variations exist. Here are the most notable:

  • Tinto de verano (Spanish): Red wine mixed with bubbly water, served chilled. Sometimes Sprite or another soft drink is used in place of carbonated water. The literal translation means "red wine of summer."
  • Süssgespritzter (German): A combination of wine and fizzy lemonade.
  • Fröccs (Hungary): The Hungarian repertoire of spritzers is vast and calls for specific proportions of wine to bubbly water or other ingredients. For example, a Újházy fröcss ('Ujhazy spritzer') is made from 20 mil. of wine plus a type of pickle juice Macifröccs ('teddy bear spritzer') is a combination of red wine, soda, and raspberry syrup.

Fortified Wine: A wine to which a distilled spirit, usually brandy (a distilled wine), is added.

Fortified wines are incredibly versatile. They are often consumed as is, but can add a sweet base or bitter note to cocktails. There are several major types, but only sherry is commonly used in mixed drinks.

Sherry: No other fortified wine has gone through a revival as robust as sherry's. In recent years, bartenders and sommeliers have highlighted obscure sherries on separate lists and dedicated sections of cocktail menus to sherry cocktails. According to Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World's Best-Kept Secret, sherry is produced in Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. The process of fortifying sherry depends upon the type of sherry (fino, Manzanilla, amontillado, palo cortado, oloroso, Pedro Ximénez, or moscatel). At some point during the production of each type, brandy is introduced to the fermenting liquid. This both raises the beverage's alcohol content and halts the fermentation process, in a way setting its taste so that the flavor and alcohol content does not continue to evolve.

The many shades of Sherry [Photo: Shutterstock]

Sherry has historically been misunderstood in the U.S. as a hyper-sweet wine in fact, traditional, unblended sherries are rarely too sweet. In Sherry, author Talia Baiocchi writes: "There is no other wine in the world whose spectrum is more versatile and wildly contrasting, and no other that defies an easy explanation quite so well." There are dozens and dozens of cocktails that use sherry today. Here are a select few:

Sherry Cobbler: The renaissance of this classic drink is credited to cocktail historian David Wondrich. It's a combination of sherry, sugar, and citrus, shaken and served over crushed ice.

Adonis: A cocktail created in New York and named for the first Broadway musical to run for more than 500 performances. It's a combination of dry oloroso sherry, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters.

Lankershim Fizz: A frothy combination of gin, Pedro Ximenez sherry, simple syrup, lemon juice, an egg white, and club soda.

La Perla: In The PDT Cocktail Book, Jim Meehan writes that the combination of reposado tequila, manzanilla sherry, and pear liqueur was invented within the last decade by Jacques Bezuidenhout and named after Tomas Estes's bar La Perla in London.

Madeira: A fortified wine — usually made from Malvasia, Bual, Verdelho, or Sercial grapes — produced on the Portuguese archipelago in the north Atlantic Ocean. It is often consumed as an aperitif or digestif and used in cooking, but may also be used in mixed drinks, especially in punch, according to David Wondrich in Punch: The Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl.

Quoit Punch: A 18th century creation. A combination of lemons and their juice, sugar, Jamaican rum, cognac, and madeira.

Marsala: A dry or sweet fortified wine produced in Sicily near the city of Marsala made usually from Grillo, Inzolia, Catarratto, Perricone, Calabrese, Nero d'Avola, or Nerello Mascalese grapes. It is classified by age and color, from Oro (golden) and Ambra (amber) to Rubino (ruby). It is aged for anywhere from several months to five years, and while it is often used in recipes for sauces, stews, and sweets, it does not often appear on cocktail menus.

Aromatized wine: Fortified wine that has been flavored with spices, herbs, or flowers.

Aromatized wine is often served as part of a mixed drink or is diluted in some way. It is also often served as an aperitif. Aromatized wines, which historically were used as medicine, tend to be strongly flavored and can be bitter, making them a perfect foil for strong liquors in a mixed drink. Others, like Barolo Chinato, are sipped as is, no mixer needed.

Many aromatized wines are steeped with quinine, a flavoring derived from cinchona bark. Quinine gives tonic water its somewhat bitter taste, and has the added distinction of causing liquids to glow in the dark. These are the most common aromatized wines that are mixed into cocktails.

Quinquina: An Italian aromatized wine flavored with quinine.

Americano: An Italian aromatized wine flavored with gentian root, which imparts bitterness in addition to the quinine.

Vermouth: From the German word for "wormwood," vermouth is an essential ingredient of the modern bar. Most vermouths do not contain wormwood, but get their bitterness from other herbs and spices. Vermouth comes in many styles, including light, dry, sweet, and red. The beverage was first bottled in 18th century Italy and remains a crucial ingredient in the classic gin martini. Other notable vermouth-based drinks include:

  • Vermouth Cocktail: Vermouth and bitters.
  • Manhattan: Rye, whiskey, or bourbon, vermouth, bitters (there are many variations).
  • Gibson: Gin and vermouth garnished with a cocktail onion.

Lillet: According to The Wine Bible, two French brothers created Lillet in 1872 when they blended Bordeaux wine with a mixture of macerated fruits and a bit of quinine. Now protected under AOC guidelines, it is only produced in Bordeaux and the recipe for Lillet is a company secret but is said to include green, sweet, and bitter citrus along with cinchona bark (quinine). Lillet Blanc is made from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle Lillet Rosé contains Muscatel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon Lillet Rouge is made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • Lillet Cocktail: A combination of gin and Lillet.
  • Vesper: Gin, Lillet, and vodka, stirred and served up

Sangria: A Spanish beverage that combines wine with cut up fresh fruit.

Traditionally brandy, a distilled wine, is also added. Sangria is considered an aromatized wine. There are white wine versions, sparkling versions, and red wine versions and, while the drink is usually served cold, it is also sometimes served warm.

Perennially in vogue, Spain's most famous cocktail is best known as a sweet, wine-based, punch-like beverage seasoned with fresh fruit. No one knows exactly who first thought to drop slices of fruit into wine, but it was certainly a Spaniard. According to dozens of sources, the drink was formally introduced to the U.S. at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Last year, the European Parliament passed a law that defines true sangria as a wine-based beverage that comes from Spain or Portugal.

Sparkling Wine: Wine made fizzy due to the addition of carbon dioxide. The gaseous bubbles in sparkling wine are a result of either carbon dioxide injections or natural fermentation.

The only constant in a cocktail that involves sparkling wine is that it's served chilled.

Champagne: The most elegant of all sparkling wines, true Champagne is only produced in Champagne, France. The distinction of the region has to do with the flavor profile of the final wine. It's may be a shame to mix a fine Champagne into a cocktail, but many hard alcohol-based drinks benefit from a bit of effervescence.

  • Champagne cocktail: According to the International Bartenders Association, this drink is composed of Champagne, sugar, Angostura bitters, brandy and a single maraschino cherry. Though it was likely invented in the mid-1800s, it's popularity today could be attributed to its on screen success. It was one of two true cocktails ordered in the film Casablanca. The other was the French 75.
  • French 75 (Soixante Quinze): The measured combination of gin, lemon juice, sugar, and Champagne. Multiple sources write the cocktail was invented in France at the New York Bar in Paris by barman Harry MacElhone. It is named after the powerful French guns that shot 75 milliliter shells at the Germans during World War I, the drink is sometimes made with brandy or Cognac instead of gin.
  • Mimosa: Possibly the most famous of all Champagne cocktails, it's the combination of orange juice and Champagne. Endless variations exist, and it is often not made with actual Champagne, but with some other kind of sparkling wine.
  • Buck's Fizz: Traditionally a Mimosa sticks to a ratio of 1 part Champagne to 1 part orange juice. In a Buck's Fizz, it's 2 parts Champagne to 1 part orange juice.
  • Kir Royale: A Kir is a combination of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and white wine. It becomes a Royale when Champagne is used instead of white wine.

Prosecco: Italy produces many sparkling wines but none are as famous or as widely used in cocktails as Prosecco. According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, Prosecco DOC can be spumante or fully sparkling frizzante or semi-sparkling or tranquillo, still. The wine is made from Glera grapes, known also as Prosecco. Other grape varieties may be included so long as they don't make up more than 15 percent of the total percentage of wine.

  • Bellini: Nearly as famous as the Mimosa is the combination of Prosecco and peach nectar or juice. Multiple sources say it was invented in 1948 by Giuseppi Cipriani at Harry's Bar in Venice. According to the Cipriani family (still prolific restaurateurs), grandfather Giuseppi was inspired by the works of 15th-century Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini in which the skirts of the women were peach-colored. Endless, unofficial, variations exist, including the Puccini (mandarin juice and Prosecco), Rossini (strawberry puree and Prosecco), and Tintoretto which combines the Prosecco with pomegranate juice.
  • Sbagliato: Literally translated as "messed up" or "mistaken," according to Imbibe, the recipe is a result of a busy bartender accidentally using Prosecco instead of gin in a Negroni. Served on the rocks, the drink contains sweet vermouth, Campari, and Prosecco.
  • Sgroppino: A cold, frothy combination of lemon sorbet, limoncello, vodka, and Prosecco.

Mulled Wine: Wine that is warmed, usually with spices, flavorings, or fruit.

Mulled wine. [Photo: Shutterstock]

It's said to have originated in Rome in the 2nd century. Unlike sangria — even warmed sangrias — it is known more for its spiced, warming flavors than its freshness. It is called mulled wine in England and the U.S. but goes by other names in other countries including Glühwein (Germany), Glögg (Norway and Denmark), bisschopswijn (The Netherlands), vin chaud (France), vinho quente (Portugal and Brazil), svařené víno (Czech Republic), Sıcak Şarap (Turkey).

Distilled Wine: Wine that has been distilled, a process that stops fermentation and increases alcohol content by removing much of the liquid (mostly water) that diluted the original beverage.

In English, this is called brandy. All such spirits contain between 35 and 65 percent ABV.

Brandy: Technically brandy may be made from the distilled fermented juice of any fruit, but it is then labeled with that fruit's name: Peach brandy, for example. When the beverage is labeled "brandy," it is always made from wine that was made from grapes. It is a high-proof alcohol and is made in slightly different ways around the world.

  • Brandy Alexander: The most famous cocktail made from brandy, though there are many. It contains brandy (sometimes Cognac), crème de cacao, and heavy cream.

Grappa: This Italian distilled wine is unique in that it is made from the fermented mashed grapes, seeds, stems, and vines that are the byproduct of winemaking. This process is protected under DOC regulation.

Pisco: A clear or amber-colored high-proof spirit distilled from grapes grown in and around Chili and Peru. The Puro (Pure) variety is made from a single variety of grape, (Quebranta or Mollar) Aromáticas (Aromatic) is made from Muscat or Muscat-derived grape varieties, Albilla, Italia, or Torontel grapes Mosto Verde (Green Must) is distilled from partially fermented must Acholado (Multivarietal), is made from a blend of different grape varietals.

7 Questions About Cabernet Sauvignon You’ve Always Been Afraid to Ask, Answered

What’s the biggest, baddest, most well-known kid in school when it comes to red wine grape varieties? Most wine professionals out there would agree that Cabernet Sauvignon wins the popularity contest by a landslide. If you’ve consumed red wine at some point in your life, you’ve more likely than not tasted this robust red varietal. But what exactly is Cab Sauv’s deal? We’re breaking down America’s favorite red wine grape with the answers to these eight questions.

What is Cabernet Sauvignon?

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most renowned red wine grape varieties. But you may not know that the grape is actually a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. In other words, your two other favorite grape varieties had a baby that turned into the most popular kid on the block. The original mix took place in the 1600s in the southwestern part of France.

What does Cabernet Sauvignon look like?

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have thick, black skins. The variety buds late and produces naturally low yields.

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Where does Cabernet Sauvignon grow?

Cabernet Sauvignon grows in nearly every wine producing region of the world, from as far north as Washington State, to as far south as the Yarra Valley in Southern Australia.

What are the best regions for Cabernet Sauvignon?

When it comes to Old World, Bordeaux is certainly the most renowned region for Cabernet Sauvignon, specifically the Left Bank. Tuscany has also become another huge Old World player for the grape variety, since the creation of the Super Tuscan. As for New World, California, especially Napa, has played a huge role in the grape’s popularity, as well as various regions in Chile, southern Australia, and Washington State.

Is a Bordeaux Blend the same thing as Cabernet Sauvignon?

Cabernet Sauvignon is an important player in Bordeaux, especially on the Left Bank. Most wines coming out of Bordeaux are blends. Left Bank blends are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot and Cab Franc playing secondary roles. On the Right Bank, Merlot is king (generally speaking), with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc playing second fiddle.

What does Cabernet Sauvignon taste like?

In its most traditional flavor profile, Cabernet Sauvignon produces full-bodied wines with strong tannins and prevalent acidity, both of which factor into the wine’s incredible ability to age. Cabernet Sauvignons from cooler regions will produce wines with slight mint and green pepper notes that become more noticeable over time. Cabernet Sauvignon from more temperate climates will produce wines with dark black cherry and currant notes, and significantly warmer regions will produce powerful wines with flavors of jammy black fruit.

How much does Cabernet Sauvignon cost?

Cabernet Sauvignon can range anywhere from the single digits all the way up to the thousands the cult classic Screaming Eagle and first-growth Left Bank Bordeaux blends have been known to fetch thousands of dollars per bottle!

Style Guide: The World’s Best Places for Growing Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is an international success story, planted in almost every wine region worldwide. Its widespread popularity is a result of the grape’s remarkable versatility. One of the nine noble red varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon is equally impressive in blends and single varietal wines, and produces remarkable wines across all price points.

The Bordeaux-native variety was born as a cross between red-grape Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It ripens relatively late in the season, producing black-fruit-driven wines with grippy tannins. This tannic structure enables wines to age for decades, but failure to reach full ripeness in the vineyard can result in bitter-tasting “green” wines.

In cooler regions, Cabernet Sauvignon produces rigid wines that require a few years of bottle aging. To make them more approachable, winemakers blend with lower-tannin red varieties, such as Merlot. In warmer regions, the grape can easily reach full ripeness, and winemakers can choose to make varietal wines or blends, ready to drink upon release.

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In its younger, fresher guise, Cabernet Sauvignon is rich in tart black fruit flavors, with herbaceous notes and the occasional hint of green bell pepper. In its richer form, the black fruit notes are super-ripe, akin to a compote or berry preserve.

Cabernet Sauvignon almost always undergoes a period of oak aging, a process that further helps soften tannins. Maturation in oak simultaneously adds some of the classic aromas and flavors associated with aged Cabernet Sauvignon, including vanilla, cedar, and cigar boxes.

From its variety of different blending partners, to numerous winemaking styles and practices, here’s everything you need to know about Cabernet Sauvignon around the world.


France is the world’s largest producer of Cabernet Sauvignon, with over 55,000 hectares planted. Production is centered in the grape’s native Bordeaux, particularly on the Left Bank of the Gironde Estuary, in the well-draining soils of the Médoc and Graves.

In this part of the world, Cabernet Sauvignon is the protagonist in carefully calculated blends, regularly appearing alongside Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and occasionally Petit Verdot, Carménère, and Malbec.

The Bordeaux red blend is celebrated for producing majestic wines, capable of aging for 20 to 30 years. These wines tend to be full-bodied, with tart black currant and violet notes from the grape, and cedar and cigar box notes from French oak aging. They provide fine examples of how an Old World Cabernet Sauvignon should smell and taste.

Large quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon are also grown in the southwest of France, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Here, the grape is typically used in large-production Vin de Pays, or IGP wines, though the region is gaining recognition for improving quality.


In 1976, the fate of American winemaking was sealed forever when Napa wines swept the French competition at the historic Judgement of Paris blind tasting. The victory brought attention to the previously overlooked region, and proved that New World wines could compete with their more prestigious Old World predecessors.

Tasted alongside nuanced, French-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, California grapes are richer in character, full of ripe black-fruit notes, plus sweet vanilla and chocolate flavors from aging in American oak. The region’s warmer climate, and winemakers’ tendency to leave grapes hanging until absolute ripeness, means California Cabs taste “bigger” than Bordeaux counterparts, with higher alcohol content and lower acidity.

While the majority of American Cabernet production takes place in California, where it is the leading variety, Washington State also produces notable Cabernet. With over 20,000 hectares of planted vines, Washington is America’s second-largest wine-producing state, after California. Washington Cabernet Sauvignon is noted for having all the ripeness of California fruit, with the added finesse of Old World styles.


While Cabernet Sauvignon was making waves in California in the mid-1970s, the grape was gaining notoriety in Italy. A handful of rebel Tuscan winemakers decided to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, breaking with the country’s tradition of only using native grapes. They produced a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon varietal wines and blends that included regional staple Sangiovese and other international varieties.

The inclusion of the foreign grape variety meant that these wines fell outside the DOC classification system, but their remarkable quality allowed them to succeed regardless. The unorthodox style became known as Super Tuscans.

Tuscan-grown Cabernet Sauvignon produces sweet plum and cherry flavors. Super Tuscans are also known for tobacco-like oak notes that come from French oak barrel aging (another departure from local tradition.)


After Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon is Australia’s second most planted grape. Though vines date back to the late 1800s, the first Australian Cabernet wines of note started appearing in the 1970s. Planted on the “terra rossa” soils of South Australia’s Coonawarra region, these wines were fruit-forward, with distinguishable minty overtones.

Nowadays, Cabernet Sauvignon is also notably produced in other regions of South Australia, like Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, and McLaren Vale, as well in the west of the country in Margaret River. Besides varietal wines, the grape is blended with national favorite Shiraz, which heightens its juicy black fruit character.


Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile’s leading grape variety. The South American nation has a rich diversity of environmental influences, meaning that wines are produced in a number of different styles.

On the country’s valley floors, where conditions are warmer and drier, Cabernet has a riper style with softer tannins, similar to Napa Valley Cab. In areas where cooling influences from the Pacific Ocean or high-elevation plantings prevail, more structured wines abound, with higher tannin content and fresher black fruit character. These are elegant wines, resembling the Bordeaux style.

Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon appears in both single varietal form, as well as in blends with other Bordeaux varieties. As in Bordeaux, Chilean winemakers add Merlot for plumpness, while Carménère performs even better than in its native France, adding a herbaceous green character to red blends.

At lower price ranges, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon is simple and fruity, designed to be consumed young. For more premium offerings, winemakers utilize oak and lower vineyard yields to increase complexity and age-worthiness.


While Argentine winemaking is synonymous with Malbec, there are also significant plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. Like Chile, simple, fresh varietal wines are abundant at entry-level price points. Top-quality Cabernet Sauvignon, often produced in the higher-altitude vineyards of the Uco Valley, receives oak-barrel aging, and is occasionally blended with Malbec, producing sophisticated wines with a velvety texture.


As with many other regions on this list, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted red variety in South Africa. It appears in both varietal and blended forms, with some producers favoring a Bordeaux-style blend, and others combining it with Syrah (Shiraz). Its character also lies somewhere between the Old World and New World, with savory black pepper and bell pepper notes complemented by ripe black fruit.


China’s surging interest in wine is not limited to buying, and the nation is rapidly expanding into winemaking. With nine distinct regions spanning the vast country, there is still no clearly defined style of Chinese Cabernet Sauvignon, though it is the most important variety in terms of plantings, accounting for roughly 70 percent of China’s wine-producing vines.

Hy-Vee Recipes and Ideas

Learn about wine by getting back to basics. And remember, you can always ask your local Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits team to help you learn even more.

Red Wine

Discover the difference between light- and full-bodied red wines.

White Wine

Including the difference between oaked and unoaked Chardonnay.

Sparkling Wine

Bubbles! Learn all about Champagne and sparkling wine.

Dessert Wine

Port, Moscato, Riesling—learn about our favorite dessert wines.

And Then There's Rosé

Everything you need to know about our favorite go-to wine. (Yes, we even make donuts with it.)

New at Hy-Vee

Check out what's new on our shelves! Pro tip: O rder your favorite bottle (or box) for pickup at select locations on Aisles Online.

Brut: This affordable sparkling wine has a pale yellow color and extra-fine bubbles for a smooth finish. Its flavor is described as smooth, subtly sweet, and harmonious with aromas of fresh butter and cake.

Sparkling Ros é : This light and refreshing sparkling ros é wine has flavors of red berries like cherries and strawberries, but is also mellow and well-balanced.

Wine that only has 35 calories per 5-oz. serving? It's not too good to be true! Look for Simply 35 fruit-flavored Moscato wine available at your local Hy-Vee and on Aisles Online. Flavors include peach, watermelon, strawberry, and blackberry.

Cabernet Sauvignon : A bold red wine with medium tannins with a dry and soft finish. This wine is also described as having earthy, smoky, and dark black fruit notes.

Chardonnay : A bold white wine with a dry and soft acidic finish. Described as having flavor notes of vanilla, pear, apple, and tropical fruit.

Zinfandel : A bold red wine with a smooth, dry, and soft finish. Described as having flavor notes of oak, tobacco, pepper, licorice, and red fruits.

Red Blend : A bold red wine with a slight tannic and acidic finish. This wine has flavors of black fruit, vanilla, oak, chocolate, and smoke.

Sauvignon Blanc : Aromas of lime, grapefruit, and gooseberry with a crisp, refreshing, and slight floral flavor. Enjoy with appetizers, salads, and fish dishes.

Cabernet Sauvignon : Aromas of red cherries, strawberries, and chocolate. This wine has a balanced flavor and structure with soft tannins. Enjoy with red meats.

Step 3: Clean & Sanitize

The No. 1 reason your homebrew will go bust (read: smell like a diaper) is dust, specks of dirt, bacteria or other particles like naturally occurring yeast have infiltrated your batch or bottles. To prevent that from happening, you need to wash and rinse all your equipment like crazy, and sanitize anything that will come into contact with the beer mash after boiling.

Most starter kits come with a sanitizer of sorts, but you can never go wrong keeping a container of B-Brite or Star San around, just in case. Fill up a large Tupperware container with the solution, throw everything that’s going to be used in with it, let it soak, rinse, and then you’re ready to rock and roll.


Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the market’s most robust wines. Acidic and rich with a multitude of aromas , this seemingly simple red wine has an explosion of flavours. Tastes range from black currants, cherries, cedar and even mint. However, as it ages, it takes on the most wonderful notes of leather, dried herbs and tobacco.

Cab has a great affinity for oak . This woody flavour – which occurs during either the fermentation or the ageing process depending on the grower – compliments the sweeter notes of vanilla and spice of the wine.

Another notable flavour is green bell pepper. This is caused by pyrazines : a compound prevalent in under-ripened grapes. While it could be considered a wine fault in excess, handled skillfully, it adds an attractive savoury note.

Growing Regions and the Ideal Climate for Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet sauvignon does best in warm climates because it&aposs a late-ripening grape. Grape growers and vineyard managers hope for long, slow ripening seasons to achieve phenolic ripeness: where the sugar levels of the flesh are at the optimal level and the seeds inside the grape are also fully ripe. If the climate conditions aren&apost ideal, the sugars can spike while the seeds are still green, resulting in a bitter, unbalanced wine. The regions profiled below have the right types of soil and the optimal climate for cabernet sauvignon.

8 Secrets For a Moist & Juicy Roast Turkey

I can’t think of a more misunderstood aspect of enjoying wine than decanting. Why anyone would bother pouring a bottle of wine into a glass carafe before drinking it leaves many scratching their heads. And while some wine drinkers may be able to tell you that decanting aerates the wine, they may not be able to tell you why this is a good idea. I suspect some people even use decanters simply because they provide a more elegant vessel for serving wine. But decanters are much more than pretty centerpieces for a dinner party. In many instances, decanting is the most practical and easy way to enhance the enjoyment of a bottle of wine—as long as you know how to do it properly.

That’s why I’ve put together this crash course on decanting, along with a few recommendations for buying the right decanter.

Why decanting is important

The question I get asked most often is: Why should I decant wine? There are at least three good reasons.

Decanting removes sediment from older red wines. Practically every red wine will start to develop sediment—the fine, silty, grainy particles at the bottom of the bottle—once it reaches seven or so years of age. The sediment is formed when pigment and tannin particles (both derived from grape skins) separate from the liquid as the wine ages. It’s best to remove this sediment from the wine before drinking, not only because of its unpleasant grittiness but also because it can make the wine taste bitter and astringent. Decanting is the best way to get rid of the sediment.

Decanting helps aerate younger red (and some white) wines. Many red wines available in restaurants or wine stores are only one to three years old, and their strong tannins can make them taste harsh. Decanting a young tannic Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot lets oxygen into the wine, rendering it more subtle and complex while softening its tannins.

Decanters can also bring up the temperature of any wine. If the bottle you’re planning to drink with dinner is too cold because it came right out of the refrigerator or a cold cellar or wine cabinet, simply rinse the outside (not the inside) of a decanter with warm water until it feels warm to the touch (15 to 20 seconds should do it) and then pour the wine into the decanter. The temperature of the wine will quickly rise by a few degrees, and it will be ready to drink.

Knowing when and how long to decant wines

Although there are no hard-and-fast rules for when to decant a wine, in general, the more tannic the wine, the more time it needs to rest in the decanter. Old, robust, tannic reds, such as Barolo or Hermitage, should be decanted at least an hour before serving, allowing enough time for the wine to open up and lose some of its tannic harshness. Any young red wine should be decanted at least 30 minutes to an hour before the meal. Once you’ve decanted the wine, plan to finish it with the meal or within 24 hours. Rarely will any wine benefit from being in a decanter for longer than a day.

Burgundies and Pinot Noirs, especially older ones, don’t have a lot of tannins and really should not be decanted. These fragile wines oxidize quickly when they come in contact with air and become unpleasantly acidic within just 30 minutes of opening the bottle. If you decide to decant these wines, do so right before serving.

Simple decanting instructions

For old red wines (seven years or more):
You’ll need a decanter, a lit candle, and a clean cotton cloth. The main goal is to remove the sediment before letting the wine aerate.

1. Stand the unopened bottle upright for at least 12 hours before decanting to allow the sediment to drop to the bottom.
2. Remove the cork as gently as possible so as not to disturb the sediment.
3. Wipe the top and inside neck of the bottle with the cloth to remove any dust or mold that may have developed during the aging process.
4. Pour the wine slowly and gently into the decanter while holding the shoulder of the bottle over the candle. As you pour the wine, use the candle to watch the shoulder (not the neck) for signs of sediment. If you’re watching the neck of the bottle for sediment you could be too late, and sediment will get into the decanter. Stop decanting once you see sediment reach the shoulder of the bottle.
It’s important to decant the wine in one slow, continuous pour. If you stop pouring before you’re completely fi nished, you’ll mix the sediment into the wine and defeat the purpose of decanting.

For young wines:
You’ll need a decanter and a clean cotton cloth. The main purpose here is to aerate the wine.

1. Remove the cork and wipe the neck and lip of the bottle with the cloth.
2. Pour the bottle vigorously into the decanter, trying to avoid spilling.
3. Allow the wine to rest in the decanter for at least 30 minutes (longer for more tannic wines) before serving.

Want to see decanting in action?

Check out our video of Tim Gaiser demonstrating how to decant a bottle of wine properly.

Choosing a decanter

There are so many decanters on the market, ranging from $20 to $250 and higher, that it can be hard to know which one to buy. As with many things, spending more doesn’t necessarily get you a better product. A good all-purpose decanter should easily hold the contents of a standard 750-ml. bottle and should either be bottle-shaped or have a flared base no more than 6 inches wide. This gives the decanter a good balance and air-to-wine contact ratio.

A good decanter should also have an opening wide enough (at least 2-1/2 inches) to easily pour the wine through without fuss or mess. Stay away from the overly fancy—and often overpriced—tall decanters with extremely wide-flanged bases and narrow openings. They may look stylish, but functionally they’re a disaster, as it’s almost impossible to empty them without spilling wine everywhere.

Four favorites: Here are a few nice decanters (pictured above), all of which are practical and reasonably priced, they are from left to right:

Watch the video: ΟΛΟΙ στο δρόμο.