Sauvignon makes the most dependable candidate for aging, more
often improving into a truly great wine than any other single
varietal. With age, its distinctive black currant aroma can
develop bouquet nuances of cedar, violets, leather, or cigar
box and its typically tannic edge may soften and smooth considerably.
It is the most widely planted
and significant among the five dominant varieties in the Medoc
district of France's Bordeaux region, as well as the
most successful red wine produced in California. Over the last 20 years, it has become the most-widely-planted black wine grape in the world.
Long thought to be an ancient
variety, recent genetic studies at U.C. Davis have determined
that Cabernet Sauvignon is actually the offspring crossing of
Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
Cabernet sauvignon berries
are small, spherical with black, thick and very tough skin.
This toughness makes the grapes fairly resistant to disease
and spoilage and able to withstand some autumn rains with
little damage. It is a mid to late season ripener. These growth
characteristics, along with its flavor appeal have made Cabernet
Sauvignon one of the most popular red wine varieties worldwide.
best growing sites for producing quality wines from Cabernet
Sauvignon are in moderately warm, semi-arid regions providing
a long growing season, on well-drained, not-too-fertile soils.
Vineyards in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley, much of the
Napa Valley, and around the Paso Robles area of the Central
Coast have consistently produced the highest-rated California
examples. Since the very first cabernet sauvignon was planted near Yakima in 1957, many areas of Eastern Washington State have demonstrated great proclivity for growing and making world-class wine.
Typically, Cabernet Sauvignon
wines smell like black currants with a degree of bell pepper
or weediness1, varying in intensity with climatic conditions,
viticulture practices, and vinification techniques. Climates
and vintages that are either too cool or too warm, rich soils,
too little sun exposure, premature harvesting, and extended
maceration are factors that may lead to more vegetative, less
fruity character in the resulting wine.
In the mouth, Cabernet can
have liveliness and even a degree of richness, yet usually
finishes with firm astringency. Some of the aroma and flavor
descriptors most typically found in Cabernet Sauvignon are:
Cabernet Sauvignon Smell and/or Flavor
depends upon individual tasting ability and experience
and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions,
as well as viticultural and enological techniques.
This list therefore is
merely suggestive and neither comprehensive nor exclusive.
Fruit: black currant, blackberry, black
(light): vanilla, coconut, sweet
Vegetal: bell pepper, asparagus
(heavy): oak, smoke, toast,
|Spice: ginger, green peppercorn,
Age: cedar, cigar box, musk,
mushroom, earth, leather
Sauvignon began to emerge as America's most popular varietal
red wine in the mid-60s. By the mid-1980s, it had replaced
"burgundy" as a consumer's generic term for red wine.2 This popularity was based
partly on the flavor
appeal of the grape and partly on its status or snob-appeal
as a "collector's" wine. Indeed Cabernet Sauvignon is the
wine most subject to inflationary climb, as fans, collectors,
and the Nouveau Riche bid the supply ever upward.
1. The compound responsible for "vegetative" smells and flavors in wine is methoxy-pyrazine. All of the Bordeaux varieties to some degree, as well as sauvignon blanc, share this chemical in their DNA. RETURN
2. Merlot supplanted Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1990s as the most popular wine with American consumers. Chardonnay similarly replaced "chablis" as the equivalent term for generic white wine. RETURN
1. Jancis Robinson (ed), Oxford
Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, (Oxford University Press: London) 2006
2. L. Peter Christensen, Nick K. Dokoozlian, M. Andrew Walker, James A Wolpert, et all. Wine Grape Varieties in California (University of California, Agricultural and Natural Resources Publications: Oakland) 2003
3. Benjamin Lewin, Wine Myths and Reality, (Vendage Press: Dover, DE) 2010
4. Steven Spurrier & Michel Dovaz, Academie du Vin, Complete Wine Course (G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York) 1983
5. Charles Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present (University of California Press: Berkeley) 1998
6. Jancis Robinson (ed), Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, (Oxford University Press: New York) 1996