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Cabernet Varietal Characteristics

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is grown in a variety of climates and in different regions all over the globe.

by: Amy Lieberfarb

Growing in different weather, soil and water conditions, each vineyard offers a unique flavor influence for the finished product ~ the wine.

Cabernet is a full bodied glass of red often showing dark fruit flavors. In order to appreciate what is in the glass, one must first understand the different characteristics that the wine one is drinking typically shows. Even when the winemaker uses different techniques and the grapes are grown in various regions, Cabernet Sauvignon will display qualities inherent to its varietal. The most  notable characteristics of Cabernet are a full body and firm tannins.
Also of note: Cabernet is likely to be bottled either on its own or combined with complimentary grape varieties as a big bold blend.

Classic flavors include black cherry, spice, plum, currant, tobacco, herbs, earth, bell pepper, tar, smoke to name a few. Many Cabernet lovers would say that a fine example of a good glass would be dark purple or dark ruby in color, show firm acidity, full body, higher alcohol levels, concentrated flavor notes and firm tannins. Cabernet is improved by spending time aging in oak barrels before bottling. Time in oak helps to slowly oxidize the wine which softens the tannins for a smoother drinking experience. Winemakers also influence the style of the end product by using different styles of oak. Barrels have been shown to add many flavors to Cabernet Sauvignon, from toasty cedar to vanilla notes.

Common Cabernet Sauvignon Nose or Flavor Descriptors Varietal Aromas/Flavors:

  • Fruits: black currant, blackberry, black cherry, rasberry, blueberry
  • Oak (light): vanilla, coconut, sweet wood
  • Oak (heavy): oak, smoke, toast, tar
  • Food Pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon: Roasted meats, Tomato based sauces, Hearty meat stews

Varietal Aromas/Flavors:

  • Fruits: black currant, blackberry, black cherry
  • Oak (light): vanilla, coconut, sweet wood
  • Oak (heavy): oak, smoke, toast, tar

Food Pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • Roasted meats
  • Tomato based sauces
  • Hearty meat stews

Pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with Cheese:

  • Blue cheese
  • Cheddar (aged)
  • Gouda (aged)

Notable Regions:

  • Bordeaux
  • Sonoma County
  • Napa Valley
  • Tuscany
  • Australia

Cabernet Sauvignon Fun Facts:

  • Cabernet is among the most widely grown, widely known, and widely enjoyed wine grape varietals.
  • Strong tannins make it easier to age Cabernet Sauvignon for long periods of time, decades even. 
  • Cabernet Sauvignon qualifies as one of the youngest grape varieties created — Originating in the 17th century when Cabernet Franc was crossed with Sauvignon Blanc. 
  • The varietal is very hardy. Thick grape skins more easily resist disease and rot than other grape varieties.