Wine Profile: Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon, (c) Wine Folly

The Culture Project started with a glass of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon (2010 Wyndham Estate Bin 444). Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the eighteen ‘Noble Grapes’, the widely-grown grape varietals which together are considered to represent the entire range of wine from crisp whites to deep, dark reds. Cabernet Sauvignon (or Cab. Sav. in common New Zealand parlance) is definitely one of the latter.

Originating in the Medoc/Graves region of France, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is a key component, along with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, in Bordeaux (which can only be called ‘Bordeaux’ if it’s grown in the Bordeaux region), and is a late-ripening varietal which requires long, hot summers. For this reason it is seldom cultivated in New Zealand but fairly widely grown in Australia, California and Chile.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine, typically a deep cherry or even purple-black in colour. Aged wines may take on a brownish tinge. It has a full body and a long finish, with dark fruit flavours such as black cherry, plum, raspberry, blackcurrant, and blackberry. Other flavours commonly encountered in Cab. Sav. include black pepper, liquorice, vanilla, violet, tobacco, and chocolate notes as well as lingering oak notes from the barrels in which it is aged.

Cabernet Sauvignon is medium- to full-bodied with a medium to high level of acidity and a typical ABV of 13.5%-15.5%.

In other words, those flavours aren’t subtle: they’re big and punchy, which is one of the things I love about Cab. Sav., particularly in the winter. There’s something wonderfully comforting and generous about a wine that doesn’t need too much teasing out in order to be enjoyed, and it’s a perfect partner to the rich winter dishes that my English heritage craves as soon as the temperatures start to cool.

Typically, Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with all kinds of rich, savoury foods. Think roasted vegetables, casseroles, and dark and roasted meats like beef, lamb, and game, although it can also pair well with cheeses and tomato-based or creamy sauces.

A medium-priced bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon can be aged for two to four years, while a fine bottle could last twenty or more, although if you’re planning on aging wine it is wise to check the vintage first and take that into account when calculating your storage time.

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the vine.

Always drink responsibly. One standard drink of wine is approximately 100ml (3.3 fl oz). The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends that women consume no more than 2 standard drinks a day, and no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and that men consume no more than 3 standard drinks a day and no more than 15 standard drinks a week (note that this is slightly lower than the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation). The World Health Organisation recommends that women abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. In New Zealand the legal drinking age is 18. Do not drink alcohol if you are under the legal age to do so in your country. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol.


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