All About Cabernet Sauvignon

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Cabernet Sauvignon, made from the grape variety of the same name, is the most popular wine in the world; not only in consumption, but production, as well. Originating in the 1600’s in the Bordeaux region of France, Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of an accidental crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Known for its hearty vines and resistance to the elements, it quickly gained popularity in other regions, particularly those with less-than-ideal conditions. The large production volume and relatively inexpensive price point both contribute to its popularity. 

There are currently over 800 thousand acres of Cabernet Sauvignon producing vineyards in the world, with France, particularly the Bordeaux region, leading the charge. The next largest producer is Chile, followed by the United States, with California, and Napa Valley in particular, carrying the bulk of the production. You can also find Cabernet Sauvignon growing in Australia, Spain, China, Argentina, Italy and South Africa.  

Notable Wines Made From Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes

  • Bordeaux 
  • Super Tuscan 
  • CMS Blends
  • Chianti
  • Meritage

Cabernet Sauvignon Styles

You can find Cabernet Sauvignon in two distinct styles: Old World and New World.

Old World refers to wines that are produced in Europe and the Middle East. These regions have been producing wine for thousands of years and have strict rules to follow for wine production. Wines from these regions tend to be light-bodied, with less alcohol, less fruit flavor and higher acidity. 

New World, which is comprised of everything else, refers to regions that borrowed traditions of the old world and created their own “new world” of wine making. New World wines have a younger wine culture and much different climates. The wines tend to be fuller bodied and lower in acidity with high alcohol content and very pronounced fruit flavors. 

It was during a blind tasting competition in Paris in 1976, the Napa Valley’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars took top honors for its Cabernet Sauvignon, putting Napa Valley on the map as a top wine producer and ushering in the new world of wine production. 

Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Notes

Cabernet Sauvignon is a dry, full-bodied red with high tannins and medium-to-high acidity, and known for its dark red color. Its robust tannins make it excellent for aging. With an average ABV of 13.5-15%, it’s slightly higher in alcohol content than your average wine.

The flavor of a Cabernet can range anywhere from rich and fruit-forward to savory and smoky, depending on where it’s grown and how it is made, but there are some characteristics that seem to be universal:

  • Dark fruit: Black currant, black cherry, blackberry
  • Tobacco
  • Wood
  • Vanilla and clove, from oak aging.
  • Green pepper

Serving Cabernet Sauvignon

It was previously thought that serving red wine at room temperature was sufficient, but now 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit (15-18 degrees Celsius) is considered the ideal temperature. If you do not have a wine fridge, we recommend chilling in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before opening and then decanting or letting the bottle breathe for at least 10 minutes before serving.  

Aging Cabernet Sauvignon

One of the factors that makes Cabernet Sauvignon so popular is its ability to age well. Wines with higher tannins tend to benefit from aging so Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect candidate. This wine can typically be aged for 7-10 years, but a good rule of thumb is, the more expensive the wine, the more aging potential. A few other rules for successfully storing your wine to age:

  • Store bottles on their side, not upright.
  • Make sure the temperature is consistent, and cool, but not cold.
  • Keep the humidity low.
  • Avoid excessive light or sunlight.
  • Avoid storing bottles where there’s potential for vibration (think high-traffic areas.)

Best Vintage By Region

As with most things when it comes to wine, determining the “best” vintage is complicated, and much of it comes down to personal preference. A year that produces more fruit-forward wines might be considered the best by some, but those who prefer more aromatics might feel another vintage is best. 

That being said, we put together a list of what wine critics consider to be the best vintages. This list is by no means exhaustive, and as you can see the most recent year for Napa is 2007. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a good wine produced since that year. This list is calling out the very BEST years by each region.

RegionBest Years
Napa Valley1985, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2007
Washington2003, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2018
France1996, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2014, 2016
Chile2013, 2015, 2018, 2019

Average Price of Cabernet Sauvignon

Affordability is a contributing factor to the popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon. While you can certainly spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a bottle of Cabernet, there are a plethora of quality, affordable bottles anywhere from $5 to $50. Your local wine shop will be able to recommend great wines to fit any budget.

Fun Facts About Cabernet Sauvignon

Due its global popularity, Cabernet is often referred to as the “King of Grapes” and “The Great Colonizer.” 

The Thursday before Labor Day is Cabernet Day. 

Chile is the second largest producer of Cabernet.

Professor Carole Meredith, the scientist who discovered the Sauvignon Blanc/Cabernet Franc origins of Cabernet Sauvignon, was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame in 2009. 

Researchers discovered that the tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon act as “scrapers” and remove the proteins and fat that build up on your tongue. This could be why Cabernet is such an excellent match to rich, fatty meats like steak and lamb.

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