Everything you need to know about Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most common grape varieties worldwide. Nowadays we have the opportunity to compare wines made with “Cabernet” from almost all regions, with a few exceptions, and to analyse during a tasting similarities and differences due to the climate, the soil conditions and the cultivation type. This is the reason why this grape variety is so interesting and it makes it worthwhile to embark on a journey to research the individual characteristics depending on the regions.
What is the Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety and where does it come from?
This grape variety has French origin, more precisely it comes from the area of Medoc, Bordeaux, where at the end of the 18th century the largest cultivation areas could be found. Exceptional wines were created and one success followed by the next. The highlight, however, was the popularization of the grape variety in the XX. Century as a “noble grape”. This led to a global expansion into the regions of the new world, such as California, Australia, Chile … but also in the old world: Spain, Italy …
The history of the origin is somewhat uncertain, but it is known that one of the previous names was Bidure. This name came from the Biturika grape variety, which was named by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD. It is the name of the tribe of French Biturgs who settled in the area of what is now Bordeaux.
It is a natural crossing between the Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc varieties, which is particularly recognizable by the vegetable note of the Sauvignon grape, as well as the pronounced tannins and the fruit of the Franc.
What does a Cabernet Sauvignon wine taste like?
The Cabernet Sauvignon wines are influenced by the ripeness of the grape, because the most important characteristic of this variety is the herbal note of green pepper, which comes from the pyrazine, an organic and aromatic compound that can be found in high concentrations in different parts of the grape.
The concentration of pyrazine decreases as the grape ripens. Therefore, it is often said that an intensive herbal note may result from insufficient ripening, which is considered a defect. A small amount of this aromatic attribute, however, gives the wine this pleasant and characteristic “touch”.
Excessive ripening can also develop a taste of jam or canned fruit, which some palates perceive as too intensive. This gives the opportunity to play with this characteristic of the grape: it is planted at different points and combined with the different flavours and aromas to give the wines a high level of complexity.
In addition to this special characteristic, we can generally say that young wines made from this grape variety unfold aromas of currants, green pepper, ripe cherries and plums. Over the time and aging in oak, tobacco notes, lead, menthol and spicy aromas develop.
This variety has a high concentration of tannins and colour intensity. The high acid content also stands out. Due to its characteristics, this grape variety is very suitable for wines aged in oak barrels, as this type of wood helps to soften the astringency while the colour remains intact and the acidity gives the wine liveliness.
How long does a Cabernet Sauvignon have to mature?
The Cabernet Sauvignon grape makes it possible to produce wines with different characteristics, the direction of the wine depends on the producer and the production process. The character of the wine is determined by the ripening of the grapes at the time of harvest and the duration of the must / wine fermentation.
For the production of a young wine, the grapes are harvested at an early point of ripeness (medium alcohol content, good acidity and medium concentration) and the maceration time is shorter, resulting in a fruity, light and fresh wine. These wines are intended for early consumption, i.e. they could be drunk in the year following the harvest and stored between 2 and 5 years without any problems and without losing the noble characteristics of the wine.
When making a wine with an aging process, the grapes are harvested at a later point of ripeness (high alcohol content, medium acidity and high concentration) and the fermentation process is longer, which produces a wine with an aroma of ripe fruit, an intense colour and a strong structure. These wines are intended to be aged in wooden barrels to soften the structure and to achieve new flavours and aromas that are created by the interaction of the wood and the wine.
These wines can be stored in the bottle for a long time without any problems, as they have a somewhat rougher taste in the first few years and the barrel aromas are still clearly visible. Over the years, however, the taste softens and a balance is created between the aromas of the grape, combined with the wood. These wines can be stored between 10 and 20 years.
What temperature should a Cabernet Sauvignon have?
The serving temperature of red wines influences our perception of aromas and the taste. At low temperatures, the aromatic combinations hardly evaporate and are less noticeable. With regard to the taste, the perception of the alcohol content is reduced, the sweetness of the wine and the tannins get stronger. In contrast, it can be said that at high temperatures the aromas are emerge with a greater ease. With regard to the taste, the perception of the alcohol content increases and the acidity decreases.
Cabernet Sauvignon wines without Crianza, i.e. without aging process, are characterized by the fact that they have a fruity taste, without great aromatic complexity, a high acid content, but the tannins are less apparent. A drinking or serving temperature between 12 and 14ºC is recommended. This temperature reveals very clear all the mentioned characteristics.
Cabernet wines with a short barrel aging are characterized by fruitiness combined with the aromas of the wood, a moderate structure and a medium / high acid content. The recommended drinking temperature is between 14 and 17ºC. This temperature allows us to discover the different aromas and to better enjoy the structure and the alcoholic elements.
Cabernet wines with a long aging process are characterized by stronger aromas, in which the fruity notes have fused with the wood and thus new complex aromas have emerged. These wines have a weakened medium acidity and a high structure. In this case, the drinking temperature should be between 17 and 20ºC in order to be able to perceive the interplay of the individual aromas, the structure and the acidity of these wines.
What meal can be served with a Cabernet Sauvignon?
The Cabernet Sauvignon wines are generally associated with their distinctive structure and their taste of wild berries such as blackcurrants, spices and green notes. For this reason, they are ideally suited to be served with tasty or spicy and high-fat food, so that the wine does not surpass the food and the combination harmonises pleasantly. Due to the notes of red forest fruits, black pepper and wood make, these wines are the perfect accompaniment to grilled meat and high-fat dishes.
The young Cabernet wines pair perfectly with low-fat meat, but with a distinctive taste, such as grilled Iberian pork or lamb. Also ideal with pasta with high-fat or tasty sauces, such as blue cheese or parmesan, as well as mushrooms and black truffle.
After an aging of these wines, they need a stronger companion, which is why we should switch to red meat and game in this case, such as beef, wild boar or duck. They also combine very well with casseroles or stews with a distinctive taste. The high tannin content of the grape is optimally mitigated with such combinations, the ideal way to enjoy these wines.