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Exploring Cabernet Sauvignon

By Sarah Groves, also posted in News on

Grape of the monthThis month, Adnams Cellar & Kitchen Stores are celebrating one of the world's most famous, and widely planted, red grape variety - Cabernet Sauvignon. Because it is widely planted, it can be quite difficult to categorise stylistically, but the grape variety does have traits that can be recognised wherever it is grown. You can enjoy a wide range of different Cabernet Sauvignon wines in our mixed case (£99, save over £14 with free UK standard delivery) - find out more here. In most red grape varieties, the majority of colour and tannins come from the grape skins (the flesh is usually pale yellow / green). Cabernet Sauvignon is a thick-skinned variety, with relatively small berries, so is prone to producing wines high in colour and tannins. It can be slow to ripen, depending on where it is grown, and often shows 'green' characteristics when planted in marginal or cool climates. Its most characteristic aroma and flavour is of black currants and black currant leaves. Chateau Margaux - nearly all CabernetIt is probably most famous as a grape variety in Bordeaux, where it is blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The Merlot adds weight and fleshiness - a fruity padding - to the elegant structure and tannins of Cabernet. Warm or hot climates, such as California and South Australia, often produce Cabernet Sauvignon as a single varietal, rather than blending it with other varieties. In places like Coonawarra (which produces some of the world's finest examples) the climate is warm enough to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon, but is still relatively cool, producing gorgeous mint and eucalyptus flavours with blackcurrant and hints of dark chocolate. There is still some debate as to whether the eucalyptus emanates from the gum trees surrounding the vineyards, but whatever is creating the aromas, it's a fantastic addition to the mix. Rob Chase, Adnams Fine Wine Manager, has an opinion on just about everything, if asked. Here's Rob's view on Cabernet Sauvignon, and true to form, he ends up enthusing about something else entirely… “It’s so hard to identify a wine as being 100% Cabernet – growers invariably slip in a small percentage of Merlot or Shiraz or similar, legitimately, to keep costs manageable, but also to make the wine more approachable. I think one of the truest expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon (at least, I believed it was all-Cabernet), was an Australian sparkler, where the bubbles accentuated the blackness and concentration of fruit. Although Bordeaux would appear to be the Cabernet capital of Europe, there are very few pure Cabernets to be found. Invariably, because I prefer Cab to Merlot, I choose a Left Bank wine with its greater preponderance of Cabernet – usually around 70% of the blend in the Médoc. Due to my natural cussedness, however, I now prefer its Cabernet Franc ‘cousin’, which today is finding greater popularity in the southern hemisphere, but has always made the great red wines of the Loire – like Chinon and Bourgeuil. So, if push comes to shove, and I want a challenging,  black fruit-laden interpretation with some chewy tannins (and a roast lamb joint, please), I’d plump for Charles Joguet’s ‘Cuvée Terroir’ Chinon at £12.99. Classic Cabernet Franc.” Cabernet Sauvignon Mixed CaseRob hasn't entirely strayed off-topic, as DNA testing at the University of Davis in California has indicated that Cabernet Sauvignon is in fact a cross between Cabernet Franc and the white grape Sauvignon Blanc. We've put together a 12-bottle mixed case (2 bottles each of six wines) featuring Cabernet as the star grape for £99 (saving over £14 a case, UK standard delivery is free). It either features as a single variety, or as a component in a blend. It's a great way to either help train your palate, or simply just to enjoy the flavour of this classic variety. Find out more here.


Sarah Groves