Does Cabernet Sauvignon really need a day? It’s already one of the most popular wine grapes in the world, and it’s also best friends with steak.
Yes and not just because Cabernet is one of the most reliable, hearty, assertively flavorful wine grapes out there (ensuring that everyone all over the world can get a nice glass of dry red wine). Sure, Cabernet Sauvignon is a strong grape with awesomely thick skin and strong character. But lest what makes it special becomes just another wine caricature, we’re taking a little time out to pay some respect — and attention — to the idiosyncrasy, and legacy, of quite possibly the most famous red wine grape in the world.
Cabernet Sauvignon is actually a hybrid, or genetic cross, between important wine parents Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, both grapes used in the blends of the Bordeaux region (so Cabernet Sauvignon is a native Frenchman).
Most of us associate Cabernet Sauvignon with France — where it plays a huge role in the fame of Bordeaux — and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. But Cabernet is produced in almost every wine-growing region in the world. Seriously, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, even the Gobi Desert in China. The reason Cabernet can be grown across hemispheres is because the grape is highly adaptable to different weather conditions.
Wherever it goes, Cabernet is thoroughly itself. Read the back of the bottle, or dare to blurt out some descriptors yourself (do it!), and you’ll find adjectives ranging from cassis and black currant to oaky, toasty, and spicy to leather, tobacco, cocoa, and (for better or worse) green bell pepper. Cabernet Sauvignon has an assertive flavor profile, backed up by strong tannins from its thick skin, meaning winemakers can use it in blends (as well as by itself) and generally feel confident about what to expect.
One of the reasons you don’t often see a Cabernet with just 11 or 12 percent alcohol is because of the grape’s thick skin and longer-ripening season. The longer a grape ages, the more time it has to develop sugars that our hero winemaker turns into alcohol. Cabernet Sauvignon tends to stay on the vine late into the growing season, meaning once we pick it, it’s packing power. French Cabernet — which, again, you’ll find in those fancy Bordeaux blends — tends to be lower alcohol at 13 or 13.5 percent, while California Cabs can get as high as 15 percent and above.
We clearly still loves us some Cabernet.