Varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

One of two "noble" red varieties. More often than not deep, garnet red in color, often with an herbaceous and green-olive aroma and flavor, tannic (astringent) in taste and dry.

While California's warm climate ripens Cabernet with very consistent results, Bordeaux's marginal climate forces it to be planted in the Medoc region, near the more temperate Atlantic coast.

Cabernet can be aged for many years and often benefits greatly from it.



The fastest growing grape in the country. The heavyweights come from South and Southeast Australia, but the grape is grown everywhere. From simple quaffing wines to huge, chewy California-clones, Australia may one day boast more Cabernet than Syrah.


From lighter, simpler offerings (usually from the cooler areas in Mendocino and the Central Coast) all the way up to the dense giants of Napa and Sonoma, this grape dominates the red wine scene.

Cabernet is a very adaptable grape. Its style can vary depending on the winemaker. The best can be enjoyable when young or need 5-10 years of age to mellow out. It ripens fully nearly every year in Napa and Sonoma where by far the best examples are produced.

Other United States

Only Washington competes with California in Cabernet Sauvignon prowess. The warm and dry Columbia Valley harbors a perfect set of conditions and one that event bests California, a longer growing season.

Washington has the potential to make the most Bordeaux-like wines in the country because of it. A few impressive examples have come from Oregon's Rogue Valley and New York's eastern end of Long Island 


Accounts for less than 20% of the plantings in Bordeaux, most of that in the village of Pauillac. Almost always blended with Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc except in very few cases where it makes up over 90% of the blend as with Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite. In great vintages, the wine can live for 100 years. Increasing in Provence where it makes good, everyday drinking wine. 


Most of the Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the northeast, specifically Trentino, Friuli and the Veneto. They generally tend to offer light, simple quaffing wines for early consumption. Many estates in Tuscany, however, have embraced this French transplant and turning out impressive offerings rivaling Bordeaux and California. It has also been used quite effectively in blends with Chianti's own Sangiovese as well as the typical Bordeaux blend with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. 

South Africa

Made in fairly large quantities, but the South African preference for red wines with high astringency runs counter to the tastes of the rest of the world. Thusly, with few exceptions, their reds have only sold in their own country. A few outstanding examples exist, however, and hopefully they will continue to be produced. 

South America

Chile dominates in the Cabernet Sauvignon field in South America. Most are easy drinking, but there are a few standouts. Continuing investment by prestigious wine firms across the globe will change that in the new Millennium.