The most planted: Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape descends from the crossing of two French varieties: Cabernet Franc, a red grape, and Sauvignon Blanc, a white grape.

It is the most famous red grape and also the most planted in the entire world.

Since it ripens late, it tends to be planted in warmer areas to allow for a longer ripening period.

A key defining quality of Cabernet Sauvignon is that it produces wine with an intense and very striking aroma. It is easy to recognize the common notes of currants, regardless of where the grapes were grown!

Cabernet Sauvignon is also notable for its intense violet color in youth and, although it is not especially alcoholic, the wine produced with this variety can be extremely long-lasting. This is because the grapes are small and have a thick skin, which gives Cabernet Sauvignon a very high concentration and rich in solid parts such as coloring matter and tannins.

If the grapes do not fully ripen, the wine may have aromas of ‘herbaceous aromas’ such as crushed green leaves, or even green peppers which is also a common note from it’s parent Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Sauvignon can produce great wines, but it is not always the best grape for young wines, especially when they are grown in colder climates, as the herbaceous notes can overpower the fruit if not ripened fully from these colder climates.

Cabernet Sauvignon is planted throughout the wine growing world. And contrary to popular belief, Cabernet Sauvignon is not Bordeaux’s most widely planted variety, it would be his companion in blends, Merlot.

As it ripens relatively late, Cabernet Sauvignon needs a warmer and drier environment than the climate of the Bordeaux region. In order to be an interesting wine commercially in Bordeaux, this grape has to ripen completely which can be hard in Bordeaux’s maritime climate with humid and cloudy summers. For this reason, Cabernet Sauvignon is best grown in the AOC Entre-Deux-Mers, the most Southern region in Bordeaux, in gravelly soil with good water drainage like in the Bordeaxu AOCs Médoc and Graves where it is invariably the main portion of the blend (with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and sometimes with Petit Verdot) and recognized worldwide.

And even today, when the grapes for these wines are harvested later and later, Bordeaux wines featuring a majority of Cabernet still have a very dry flavor and can be dark, dense and rough until they are seven or eight years old. But, because of all its structure, we can find an extraordinary intensity of fruits that can take up to 20 years to transform in the bottle into an amazing and magnificent bouquet.

I will use the words of the great wine critic, Jancis Robinson, to describe the different characteristics of this grape planted and produced in different Bordeaux AOCs.

‘At AOC Médoc, Cabernet is the main variety. AOC St-Estèphes Cabernet is difficult and rough during its youth, (it is true that they are getting more mature and pleasant with each harvest); In the dense Cabernets of AOC Pauillac, mineral aromas predominate. AOC Margaux’s are exuberant and silky. And at AOC St-Julien, they can be balanced and long-lasting. Cabernet also brings freshness and long life to Graves’ wines and the suggestive aromas of red clay can be common in several AOC Pessac-Léognan wines. ’

Cabernet Sauvignon is also found in other parts of France; in particular, it has adapted very well to the South.

In Provence, for example, mixed with Syrah, the wines tend to be more spicy and with added tannins can age in oak to continually develop for a long time.

In California, particularly in the North, we find great Cabernets. Ultra silky, nowadays made from grapes so ripe that the tannin level is practically imperceptible. Much of Napa Valley, with the exception of Carneros in the far south, seems particularly appropriate for the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, producing very mature and age-worthy wines! Inspired by the famed Bordeaux wines, Napa features single varietal Cabernets liked the award-winning Stag’s Leap or Opus One, as well as Bordeaux blends such as the famed Joseph Phelps vintage blends. 

In many more delicate Californian Cabernets, we can find mentholated and somewhat earthy aromas.

Cabernet Sauvignon was also responsible for some of Italy’s most audacious wines.

Tuscan producers for example began to mix Cabernet with their native Sangiovese. Since this is outside the DOC regulations for this region which doesn’t allow Cabernet Sauvignon into the blend, these wines were deemed “Super Tuscans” – the most famous is known as Sassicaia. This rebel spirit showed that Tuscany is Cabernet’s third paradise on earth, after Bordeaux and California.

The Cabernet of Tuscany tends to be marked by a great structure, a certain bitterness, which is not aggressive, and an incredibly tasty palate.

Cabernet Sauvignon is planted with enthusiasm in central Europe, and can be found almost anywhere the sun happily shines.

It is rare to find Cabernet Sauvignon in Portugal but it was widely planted in Spain which is the fourth most planted red wine grape in the country, particularly in Somontano, Navarra and Penedes in the North.

This variety grows particularly well in the warmest regions of the Mediterranean, mainly in Croatia, Lebanon, and Israel.

Many of South Africa’s most respected wines (these being some of its best wines) are produced with Cabernet as well.  

The first Cabernet vines were brought to South America a little over a century ago and are one of the most important varieties in the wine industr. The Chilean Cabernet, most of which is still planted in an open field because the phylloxera pest did not reach everywhere there, has a very fruity and intense flavor and is produced to be consumed at a young age.

And Argentinian Cabernet is typically more explosive in flavor and more velvety in texture.

In Brazil, the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon also began, on a regular basis, from the 1970s, although it is speculated that vine seedlings have existed in Brazilian lands since 1900. Cabernet Sauvignon began its plantings in Brazil on a regular basis from the 70s, but it is said to have existed in the country since 1900. Nowadays and together with Merlot, it is responsible for a large part of the production of national reds. All Brazilian wine regions plant Cabernet Sauvignon, which produces wines with different characteristics according to the local climate.

Most reds like those from Serra Gaúcha have a low alcohol content and a darker color, while those produced in the Rio Grande do Sul campaign region are more complex and structured, have a higher alcohol content and softer color tones. .

In Santa Catarina and Paraná these wines can age very well in oak barrels.

In the Northeast, due to the excessive heat, blend or blend wines are made, combining Cabernet Sauvignon with other varieties such as Syrah and Alicante Bouschet.

Australia produces great wines with Cabernet Sauvignon, especially the wines of Coonawarra, in the south, and Margaret River, in the west.

There, Cabernet can be mixed with the famous Shiraz, but it can produce balanced and fascinating wines on its own.

Cabernet wines from Australia don’t have as much wealth or alcohol as those from Napa Valley, nor do they have the subtle complexity of Bordeaux wines.

However, they have a remarkable balance between fruit, acidity and tannins. With all these elements in harmony, these wines are delicious after only a few years of aging.

In New Zealand, wines with this variety can be very herbaceous and acidic, but there are great examples grown in warmer climates such as Hawke’s Bay and Auckland that are becoming more mature, due to global warming and better viticulture.

And even in China, with the recent wine production revolution that was practically based on that variety! There are extensive Cabernet Sauvignon plantations in that country but the results are still not the best.

In recent years, and in some wine regions, there has been a setback in the planting of this grape. It is being increasingly replaced by indigenous varieties.

It may be that within a few years Cabernet is already a variety for fewer and more specific producers.

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