What Makes Cabernet Sauvignon So Bold?
Curtis Mann, Raley’s Wine, Beer & Spirits Expert
Learn more about what makes Curtis an expert.
It’s a combination of factors that go back to the parentage of the grape. As a descendent of both Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon displays some of the same leafy, green minerality as those wines before it reaches optimal ripeness. For this reason, winemakers and viticulturists – especially in California – like to err on the side of ripeness and push the grape to its sugar limits to ripen out the green flavors.
The result of this high ripeness is usually a payoff of bright blue and black fruits like blackberry, plum and boysenberry. At the same time, the increase in sugar ultimately creates a higher amount of alcohol, which enhances the aromas. And because the Cabernet grape still retains its acid, the wine’s tannins are forward and bright even with the high alcohol.
All these bold flavors make Cabernet a perfect partner for oak. Oak helps round out the tannins, tame the fruit and integrate the acid. Additionally, the type of oak used, from large foudres to small French oak barrels, can have a dramatic effect on the final outcome of the wine. Due to the expense of small barrels, these are usually reserved for the best quality and smallest production lots in the winery.
As far as bottle aging goes, some of these wines can lie down for 20 or 30 years, but most California Cabernets should be enjoyed now or within the next five years. The high alcohol and fruit-forward nature of the wine makes it ready to drink right away.
Over the last 10 years, the trend has been to tame the tannins so wines are more approachable at an earlier age. Most estates realize wine enthusiasts don’t want to wait 20 years to drink their wine!
The key to enjoying Cabernet Sauvignon is picking the correct one. These wines are a good starting point for adventure-seekers looking to expand their understanding beyond the more familiar brands.
Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon, California
Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Grande Reserve, Chile
Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington
Catena Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina
Daou Cabernet Sauvignon, California