Cabernet Sauvignon (often just called Cabernet or Cab and not to be confused with Sauvignon Blanc) is a similarly dense and full bodied wine as Syrah.  The Cabernet Sauvignon berries are small and thick skinned which means they have a lot of skin compared to the amount of juice they yield which contributes to the colour and density of the finished wine.  Cabernet Sauvignon wines tend to have plenty of flavour, a substantial amount of tannin and acidity and great structure.  Cabernet is sometimes called the king of the red grapes – it travels well and can make wonderful wine in lots of different locations, it can age for decades, and is a well structured, elegant and graceful wine (very aristocratic!). 

Cabernet Sauvignon is most commonly associated with a rich, blackcurrant flavour but will often have blackberry, perhaps eucalyptus and dark chocolate tones.  It goes extremely well with oak which can add a cedary, spicy, toasty or vanilla flavour to the wine.  Although great Cabernet Sauvignon is capable of ageing for decades, there are plenty of early drinking wines being made.

Best areas

In France Cabernet lives in Bordeaux. There are five grape varieties permitted in red Bordeaux wines but the main two are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cabernet Sauvignon has more structure and power than Merlot, but takes longer to ripen so needs a good site, the right soils and a bit of luck with the weather.  The gravelly soils of the left bank in Bordeaux are best suited to Cabernet Sauvignon and it is here where most of it is planted.  Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon have very complementary characters and are blended together in Bordeaux and elsewhere to great effect.  St Julien, Margaux, St Estephe, Pauillac and Graves are the most famous left bank appellations. 

Outside of France, Cabernet Sauvignon has considerable presence in California and Australia where the warm, sunny climates are ideal for ripening this slow maturing variety.  Those long sunny summers allow the grapes to reach full maturity so you get lots of flavour in these wines, but the best will still be fresh and elegant.  South Africa, Chile and the warmer parts of New Zealand all make lovely Cabernet too – either as a single varietal or blended with other grapes.

Blending

Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended both for stylistic and practical reasons.  In climates where there is a risk of the weather not being good enough to get the Cabernet fully ripe, it is wise to plant some earlier ripening varieties to ensure you can make some wine every year (Bordeaux being a prime example).  Stylistically, Merlot is often blended to add softness and round out the wine.  In Australia, Cabernet and Shiraz are often blended to make bold, fruity, structured wines.

Food matching

Bordeaux wines have an unmistakable elegance to them; they just don’t reach the blockbuster proportions of a lot of new world wines.  These reds go brilliantly with simply roasted meat; Sunday lunch is the perfect vehicle for a bottle of red Bordeaux.

Good new world Cabernet has so much depth and concentration that only suitably full flavoured dishes should even attempt to keep up.  Red meat will work well, even if it’s served rare.  The wines will handle spice, char grilling and heavy sauces - the whole caboodle.

Great Cabernet Sauvignon Examples:

New World

Casablanca Cefiro Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile

Casablanca Cefiro Cabernet 2011/2012

Porcupine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa

Porcupine Ridge Cabernet 2012

Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, California

Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

New World blends

Madfish Cabernet/Merlot, Australia

Madfish Cabernet Merlot 2008

The Chocolate Block, South Africa

The Chocolate Block 2012 Pk6

Long Beach Cabernet/Shiraz, South Africa

Long Beach Cabernet/Shiraz 2012

Rustenberg John X Merriman, South Africa

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2011 Pk6

Finca Sophenia 2 Cabernet/Malbec, Argentina

Finca Sophenia 2 Cabernet Malbec 2011

Achaval Ferrer Quimera, Argentina

Achaval Ferrer Quimera 2010 Pk6

Old World

Finca Antigua Cabernet Sauvignon, Spain

Finca Antigua Cabernet 2010

Nijinsky Cabernet, France

Vignelaure Nijinsky Red 08 Pk6

Old World blends:

Ch Kefraya Les Breteches, Lebanon

Kefraya Les Breteches 2009

Massaya Classic Red

Massaya Classic Red 2011 Pk12

Bordeaux

Echo de Lynch Bages

Echo De Lynch Bages 2010

Les Relais de Durfort Vivens

Relais De Durfort 2007

Baron de Brane

Baron De Brane 2005

Langoa Barton

Langoa Barton 2010

Phelan Segur

Phelan Segur 1996