Particulars of the palate
Black fruits, pepper, liquorice, tobacco and vanilla are cabernet sauvignon’s prevailing flavours, although the intensity of these notes will fluctuate from region to region. Cabernets can largely be separated into two distinct flavour categories; old-world cabernets and new-world cabernets.
The old-world cabernet sauvignons of Europe offer an earthier, more floral taste, with tobacco and violet flavours common. Leather and liquorice will hint at a Bordeaux cab. While the notes might sound as though they’d offer a heavier, more intense taste, old-world wines are generally less intense than their newworld cousins.
Californian, Australian and Argentine cabernets are fruitier, herbier and more intense. Black fruits are accompanied by hints of pepper, vanilla, while Australian cabernet sauvignon will also produce subtle mint and eucalyptus notes.
Cabernet sauvignon is commonly barrelled in French oak, although Hungarian and American oaks are also popular. This unsurprisingly imbues the wine with an oaky taste and texture.
The ideal food pairings for cabernet sauvignon are consistent with most other dry reds. The umami flavours of red meat and mushroom allow the fruity notes of the variety to shine through, and for this very same reason the dark chocolate and other sweet accompaniments are best left at the door.
The best of the bunch
While the variety will inevitably find itself in a blend, must-try oldworld wineries with a heavy cabernet sauvignon influence include Haut-Brion, Châteaux Latour, Lafite and Margaux.
New world labels that are far happier to showcase the grape on its own include Penfolds, Wynns and Vasse Felix.
Cabernet Sauvignon titbits
- Put it in your calendar: While only established in 2010, the last Thursday of August has now been marked as Cabernet Day. What better reason to crack open a bottle?
- Rain, hail or shine: Cabernet sauvignon is one of the hardiest grape varieties in the world. Vines are grown everywhere from the Gobi desert to Canadian mountain slopes!
- New world, old wines: The world’s oldest continually used cabernet sauvignon vines aren’t on the slopes of Bordeaux or Burgundy, but in the Kalimna vineyard of South Australia’s Barossa Valley. They date back to the 1880s.
- Thirsty neighbours: China is the world’s largest drinker of cabernet sauvignon, with 28% of Australia’s exports being sent to the country.