How to choose a Cabernet
Find the right Cabernet for your table.
One of the world's favorite wines is Cabernet Sauvignon, a big, bold red famous for its heady aroma, strong flavor, lingering aftertaste and medium to full body. Often called one of the most versatile varietals available, Cabernet has a reputation as the "King of Reds." Here are a few tips to help you choose the right Cabernet Sauvignon for your table.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are smaller and have thicker skins than other wine grapes, giving them a hearty makeup and making Cabernet one of the most widely-cultivated wine grapes in the world. The best condition for growing quality Sauvignon Cabernet grapes is a moderately warm, semi-dry climate that provides a long growing season, and the two largest regions producing Cabernet today are California and France.
Californian Cabernets tend to have a stronger fruit flavor than their French counterparts. Fruity Cabernets have tastes of cherry, black currant, and blackberry, while a spicy Cabernet has subtle overtones of ginger. Oaky varietals taste of vanilla, cedar, and sweet wood while older vintages have been likened to smoke and tobacco. Although California and France are leading the Cabernet market, many other countries, such as Chile, Australia and Italy are also known for producing respectable versions. You will have to decide for yourself which wine region you prefer.
One of the best ways to discover the Cabernet that you prefer is to attend a wine show. This will allow you to taste samples of wines from different regions, enabling you to discover the tastes you enjoy without stocking your wine rack with varietals you do not.
Note that Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are often blended with other types of grapes to quiet the often overpowering taste of a 100% Cabernet wine. Merlot grapes, producing a mellow red wine, are often used, and in Australia, the trend is to mix Shiraz grapes with their Cabernet cousins. In Italy, Cabernet Sauvignon is mixed with the local top red wine grape, Sangiovese, and in Spain, Cabernet grapes are blended with the region's favorite Tempranillo grape. Each mix will provide a different taste, and learning how to choose a Cabernet means sampling them all.
When it comes to quality, one of the easiest ways to decipher between wines is to check the bottle for subregions. For instance, California as a region is fine, but if the bottle designates further, listing more detail such as "North Coast," the wine is probably of a better quality. If the bottle lists "Napa Valley," the quality should be higher still, and if the actual vineyard is listed, the wine should be of the highest quality. Note that price coincides with superiority.
Vintages and Price
Cabernet Sauvignon prices can range from $20 a bottle to over $1,000, depending on the vintage. For instance, the rare 1985 Caymus Cabernet will run you a remarkable $1,499. For most of us, this level of quality is not important, although a sip of this wine would surely make an impression. Wine vintage should be taken into account when considering how to choose a Cabernet. Vintage refers to the year the wine was made, and quality varies from year to year because of weather changes and their effects on the grape-growing season. When it comes to Cabernet, great vintages include 1991, 1995, 1997, and 2001. The 1997 vintage is considered by many to be one of the best years of the decade. Note that the price for a vintage wine will be considerably higher than wine from less notable years.
Pairing with Menus
Before purchasing a Cabernet, consider the menu with which the wine is to be served. It has been said that Cabernet goes well with anything, but it especially complements lamb, beef, goose, spiced poultry, and pasta in red sauce. This wine is also a great match for Brie, cheddar cheese, and chocolate.
Learning how to choose a Cabernet need not be overwhelming, and in fact, sampling wine to discover your favorite can be fun. Happy tasting!