Back Story. Cabernet Sauvignon is a thick-skinned, hearty grape that handles adverse weather conditions better than other grapes, and flourishes in ideal climates like Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Napa/Sonoma areas. Cab was long thought to be an ancient varietal originating in France or Spain, with lineage dating back to Roman times. However, genetic testing done by the wine geeks at UC Davis in the 1990’s confirmed that the varietal was the result of a more recent cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
Flavor Profile. As mentioned, Cab is known for its big, bold flavors. When used to make wine on its own, this powerful flavor profile is untempered – which is great if you like strong red wine, but not so much if your palate tends toward a softer style of wine. When blended with other red grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah or Sangiovese, the result is a more approachable red wine that a wider group of people can appreciate and enjoy. (Note to file when the server looks to you as the main man to order wine for the table.) Cab grows in a number of climates, from relatively cool to blazing hot. The warmer the climate, the fruitier flavor profile a Cab tends to have.
Food Pairings. Cabernets are best known for matching up with strong-flavored foods. A big steak is a classic pairing with Cab, as are other grilled meats. Sharp cheeses also go well with Cabs, as do pasta dishes with hearty, tomato-based sauces.
Price. Cabernet Sauvignon is used to make table wines that can cost under $10; cult wines that get you close to the 4-digit range (or more if the Cab is part of a high-end blend from Bordeaux); and wines everywhere in between those ends of the spectrum. Restaurants always have several options for Cab by the glass, and more by the bottle. Steak houses often have extensive Cab offerings on their wine lists. While Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my very favorites, it’s not for everyone, because the powerful flavors can be too much for some people.
So if you’re looking to “go big or go home” – raise your hand and take a Cab!
Photos used under Creative Commons from bigbirdz, photoskate