Cabernet Sauvignon

The most prestigious red grape?

Origins

  • Bordeaux region, as a natural cross of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc (established 1997 by DNA analysis)
  • Was known as Vidure or Petit-Vidure
  • Spread throughout left bank of Bordeaux, supplanting white grapes

Characteristics   

  • Fairly easy to grow: hardy, buds late, but also ripens late (so some danger of equinoctial storms)
  • Loose bunches of thick-skinned grapes (so good resistance to rain and disease)
  • Loves well-drained soils (e.g. gravels of Médoc, Rutherford bench, Coonawarra Terra rossa)
  • Low yielding
  • High proportion of skin and pip to pulp, hence deep colour and high tannin
  • Deep colour (deepest of all mainstream grapes)
  • Key fruit quality: blackcurrants
  • Melding of fruit and oak: cedary and cigar-box flavours with age               

Vinification / Maturation

  • Long macerations to extract colour and flavour
  • Long maturation in (often) new, small (225l.) French oak barrels

Homeland       

  • Bordeaux: the classic grape of the left bank, especially Graves and Médoc (doesn’t like the cooler, damper, clay soils of the right bank)
  • Summit: the five first growths: Latour, Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux (Médoc) & Haut-Brion (Graves)
  • Generally makes up 60-80% of left bank claret.
  • N.B. Contrast: in homeland of Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon is usually part of a blend. In New World often made as 100% CS

Also to be found in    

  • France (but not that widely planted): S.W. France, e.g. Bergerac; Provence and Languedoc (e.g. Vin de Pays & Mas de Daumas Gassac), Loire
  • Italy: North-east and Tuscany  - 100% Cabernets, e.g. Sassicaia - or part of a blend with Sangiovese
  • Bulgaria: Huge volume & poor quality, but potential?
  • USA: California, esp. Napa Valley & Sonoma Washington State
  • Australia: South Australia, esp. Coonawarra; Western Australia, esp. Margaret River; Victoria. Often blended with Shiraz
  • New Zealand: Around Auckland and Hawkes Bay, usually in Bordeaux style blend
  • South Africa: held back by poor, disease-ridden plant material until 1990s: now new Cabernet clones of promise, both blends and as a single varietal     
  • South America: very high quality examples from Chile; and Cabernet of more dubious varietal character from  Argentina

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