The Thursday before Labor Day weekend marks a unique celebration, Cabernet Day, which honors and recognizes Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Though I absolutely love a good Cabernet Franc, especially from Touraine in the Loire Valley(Chinon or Bourgueil), I will save my thoughts on Cabernet Franc for another post. Jancis Robinson describes Cabernet Franc as the more feminine counterpart to Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon is the more masculine, rugged, bold grape or more aptly known as the King of all grapes.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a small, thick-skinned grape that is easily adaptable and thus grown in many regions, altitudes, latitudes and climates around the world. The major regions that produce Cabernet Sauvignon in order or acreage are France, Chile, United States, Australia, Italy, South Africa and Argentina.
The intense flavor characteristics that are often exhibited by this grape are black cherry, black currant, blackberry, black pepper, green bell peppers, vanilla, chocolate, tobacco and leather. It produces a lush, elegant, full-bodied wine that leaves a big impression with all drinkers. It is also a highly structured wine with chewy tannins, mouth-puckering acidity, and in many cases high alcohol (between 13% to 15.5%)
With its world dominance you would think Cabernet Sauvignon would be an older grape varietal, but in fact it is a relatively new grape. Cabernet Sauvignon is believed to have been created in France in the 17th century and is a crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
There are varying styles of Cabernet Sauvignon, my favorite Cabernets are from Bordeaux France, where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Many countries try to model their Cabernet Sauvignon after the first growth wines of Bordeaux. In Italy, more specifically in Tuscany, you will find it often blended with Sangiovese. In Australia you will find Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Syrah and in Chile it is often blended with Carmenère . Napa Valley makes wonderful single varietal Cabernets, though a little blending is also prevalent.
As you know by now, Bordeaux wines are my favorite Cabernets. They are remarkably concentrated, structured, and tannic. Bordeaux wines from the left bank are primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and are perfect wines to lay down and age in your cellar. Some of the most prestigious wines in the world are from this region, i.e. Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Latour, and Chateau Margaux. Napa Valley Cabernets, are stylistically different from old world Bordeaux wines. Due to higher temperatures in Napa, Cabernets here are typically more fruit forward and higher in alcohol. The tannins on a Napa Cab are more smoother and more velvety in texture. Napa Valley cabs have a cult following with labels such as Screaming Eagle and Harlan. These wines have price tags comparable to some first growth Bordeaux, selling for $1000 to $1500 a bottle.
Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with so many foods, the sharp acidity and grippy tannins make it a perfect pairing with steaks, burgers, lamb, pizza and pastas with hearty red sauce. Cabernet Sauvignon also pairs beautifully with aged cheeses.
Cabernet Day was originally started as a way to celebrate the upcoming harvest. So this Labor Day weekend, pick up a few bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon(or Cabernet Franc) and toast the start of the autumn season. A few of my favorite Cabernet Sauvignons are listed below.
Mollydooker The Maitre D’ ($25) – This impressive wine is a perfect example of an Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon. The Maitre D’ has plenty of fruit and chewy tannins, with notes of plum, blackberry and white pepper. The wine is rich, bold and complex and a perfect representation of a new world wine. At $25, this is a superb wine at a wonderful price.
Chappellet Signature Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) This is a classic Napa Cabernet. This wine is an intense wine with flavors of cherries, chocolate, tobacco, and spice. It has firm tannins, and is a very age worthy wine. This is a beautiful wine and a wonderful example of what a Cabernet should be.
Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) This is the Hall house wine and is a very classy yet classic Cabernet. The wine is deep, rich and full of fruit, exhibiting notes of ripe cherries, espresso and chocolate. This wine is a great expression of Napa wines. On a separate note, the vineyards of Hall are equally as impressive and as beautiful as this wine. Take a tour of their cellars when in Napa.
Chateau Pontac-Lynch Quintessence Margaux ($35) – The Quintessence is an award-winning wine for this wonderful château. This wine exhibits Margaux’s typical fragrance and floral character. The wine has concentrated fruit, crisp acidity and firm tannins. This wine can age beautifully for a few years.
Chateau Lagrange Saint Julien ($50) This wine exhibits oak, cassis, cherries and spice. The wine is made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This is a powerful wine that can be aged for several years.