Cabernet Sauvignon

Consistently excellent red

Cabernet Sauvignon wines are the classic complex red, with fruit, floral, spicy and sweet aromas layered on a bed of nicely balanced acidity and tannin. Their robust yet subtle flavors play well with rich meals, such as red meat or creamy pastas. Many get richer, subtler, and more elegant with time, sometimes for decades.

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape, from which the wine is made, is an obliging grape. It grows in deserts in China, on dry, sunny exposures in South America, and in cold, damp corners of Washington State as abundantly as in the great wine-making regions of France, notably Bordeaux. It can produce 3 times (or more) as much fruit per acre as pickier or more vulnerable varieties of grape. And when it comes time to vinify, Cabernets buckle down and get the job done consistently, generally ranging from quite good to astounding. So when you don't know what you're doing, Cab is a solid, safe choice.

The French most often blend Cabernet Sauvignon with other grapes. However, if you can find a pure French Cabernet, you'll find it's more earthy and floral than it is fruity, a little light but with good tannins and acidity that last on the tongue. French Cabs are more likely to have a bit of the green pepper flavor that can appear in short growing season. California Cabernets, which are able to ripen more during the longer warm season, tend toward more dark fruit focus: plum, black cherry, licorice and vanilla, with a higher percentage of alcohol.

Some of the most expensive wines in the world are Cabernets from the fabled Chateau LaTour, but some cheap, casual, very drinkable table wines have big Cabernet fractions too. It's worth exploring a range of bottles (you'll like them all!) to find your favorites…and continue to explore, because there is always another unexpectedly delightful vintage to be tasted.

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