Cabernet Sauvignon often is referred to as “King Cab,” the most “noble” of all wine varieties. No variety has a more complex aroma and flavor spectrum, and no variety has greater aging potential than Cabernet.
How much do you know about this treasured wine? Here are 10 fascinating facts that you can share with friends the next time you’re sharing a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon…
- Historically, the most prized bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon came from the Bordeaux appellation of France — specifically, the communes of Margaux, St.-Julien, St.-Estephe and Pauillac.
- In the late 20th century, great Cabernet from California — especially from the Napa Valley, but also from Sonoma County — began to been seen as “equal” in quality to Bordeaux. That opinion was not embraced by the French, however.
- The new “competition” did serve notice, however, and many Bordeaux vintners began improving their own products. They started picking grapes based not just on their sugar level, but also on tannin ripeness, and that led to wines that could be uncorked and enjoyed at much younger ages.
- In Bordeaux, a complex classification system rates the wines from First Growth to Fifth Growth, based primarily on the location (known as the terroir) of the producing vineyards. If you want to drink First Growth Bordeaux, there is a price to be paid; such wines often will cost three to four times more than even some Second Growth wines.
- In the new millennium, France has been looking at its wine classification system differently, now allowing certain varieties to be grown in regions where they previously had not been allowed. This has led to an array of new labels, not to mention some very good Cabernet Sauvignon wines at much more reasonable prices. Look for “Pays d’Oc” on the label — like on the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Domaine de Olibet, featured in the latest Vinesse Cabernet sampler pack that happens to be on sale.
- Outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon also is being made today in Australia, particularly in the McLaren Vale region. The Vale is known for the rich, ripe character of its wines, and that personality shows through in many of its Cabernets. (Note: There’s also a tasty Aussie Cab in today’s sampler pack.)
- Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, believed to have occurred sometime during the 1600s, and probably in Bordeaux. The precise timing remains a mystery, but the varieties involved in the crossing have been confirmed by sophisticated DNA testing.
- In France, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king, it’s rare to encounter 100 percent varietal bottlings. Almost all of the releases we refer to as Cabernet Sauvignon include small amounts of Merlot and, in many cases, several other varieties. Blending gives the vintner the freedom to craft not merely the best Cabernet Sauvignon possible, but the best wine possible. One hundred percent varietal bottlings are more common in California, but growing numbers of Golden State winemakers also are embracing the benefits of blending.
- The perfect food pairing partner for Cabernet Sauvignon, most winemakers will tell you, is lamb. It pairs well with rich, meaty dishes in general, and short ribs represent another inspired pairing.
- Peggy Noonan, author and former speech writer for President Ronald Reagan, once noted: “My generation, faced as it grew with a choice between religious belief and marijuana, chose marijuana. Now we are in our Cabernet stage.”