Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in virtually all wine countries around the world. It is the world’s most popular – most planted – grape variety.
The best way to discover the many different faces of cabernet sauvignon is to organize a wine tasting with wines from different countries and regions. Soon you will be able to see for yourself the differences and similarities. And you can answer the question: Is it always possible to recognize a cabernet sauvignon?
In France, cabernet sauvignon is found not only in Bordeaux. Compare classic Médoc with cabernet from the warmer Provence region and a more modern version of the grape from the Languedoc. Taste muscular cabernet wines from California and fruity ones from Chile.
A Bordeaux is, of course, mandatory in a cabernet sauvignon tasting. Pick one from Médoc or Pessac-Léognan; they have the highest percentage of cabernet sauvignon in their wines. It will however seldom be more than between 60 and 70 %, the rest being cabernet franc, merlot and maybe a little bit of petit verdot. A typical Bordeaux blend.
In the Médoc, you have several different appellations, some more expensive than others. For good quality at reasonable prices look for Listrac-en-Medoc, Moulis-en-Médoc and Haut-Médoc. If you don’t mind spending money, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe are good choices.
Outside of Bordeaux, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence is one of the few French appellations that allows cabernet sauvignon. Often, they blend with syrah, for instance Château Vignelaure, a beautiful estate that uses 70% cabernet sauvignon and 30 % syrah.
You can also find cabernet sauvignon in the Languedoc. It is used in IGP wines (indication géographique protégée), often with the grape indicated on the label.
California is a big cabernet country, so you have a lot to choose from. Pick something from Sonoma or Napa Valley, for instance, well-known estates such as Beringer, Mondavi or Kendall-Jackson. They often use 100 % of the grape, sometimes with a splash of merlot, malbec or cabernet franc. To compare, maybe something from Paso Robles, a bit further south.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape in Chile, and producers usually use this grape for their icon wines. So, also here, the choice is vast. You can choose from different regions: An example: T.H. Cabernet Sauvignon from Viña Undurraga is made with grapes from cool spots in the Alto Maipo close to the capital Santiago. Compare with J. Bouchon Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva from the hotter Maule Valley further south.
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