When I think about Cabernet Sauvignon, I think about the jock. The guy who played three sports and was six feet tall with a great body and a handsome face with chiseled features. He probably rocked the gridiron, as well as either baseball or soccer, and he was on the wrestling team. He was captain of all of them. He is grown up now but he still has that winning smile that captured the attention of almost every girl in school (and some boys).
As a member of those teams, and as a top sales manager in his firm today, he relies heavily upon his teammates for success – Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot are usually his MVPs. But he can definitely hold his own with little or no help. He’s a strong character, but he gets along with everyone – he is well liked. Nonetheless, he doesn’t bend to anyone’s whim. He is who he is no matter what playing field (wine region), or what combination of teammates (blend), or what coaching (winemaking) style. Cabernet is always reliably Cabernet.
When buying Cabernet Sauvignon you can start with these two benchmarks:
Bordeaux from the Left Bank that are blends in which Cabernet is usually the main ingredient and the strongest character
California (particularly Napa Valley) varietally labeled Cabernet
If you are intrigued by wines and foods that have great balance and acidity and are not overtly fruity, Bordeaux is a good way to go. You can find pretty decent Left Bank Bordeaux, particularly Bordeaux Superieur, between US$10-$20 that will suit your taste. If you’re feeling special, look for wines labeled Première Côtes de Bordeaux, Pomerol, Haut-Medoc, Grand Cru and Grand Cru Classé. You will spend more money but in most cases, you do get more for your dollar out of those bottles. They are usually a bit fuller bodied with more layers of interesting flavors.
If you prefer wines and foods that are very flavorful and rich, especially if you are an unabashed lover of meat, then Napa Valley Cabernet should make you happy. You can find good Napa Cab starting around $15. Below that, you may see Cabernet simply labeled as “California” which means the grapes came from various unspecified regions in that great big state. I can’t vouch for these as suitable substitutes. Go for Napa. In general the more expensive the Napa Cab, the bigger a wine it will be on your palate. A couple of C-notes will score you a linebacker!
Nonetheless, there is Cabernet Sauvignon coming out of every corner of this great wine world! And the truth is most of it, even if it is labeled Cabernet Sauvignon, is blended. Cabernet tends to have trouble filling your palate by itself, so he usually teams up with Merlot to fill out the center for you with yummy berry fruit. (in the US a wine can be labeled varietally as long as it contains at least 75% of that grape variety, so Napa Cabernet can contain up to 25% Merlot or other varieties) But he is usually the backbone of a blend, the go-to guy.
Your homework for this week is to try 5 Cabernet Sauvignons. You should have one Napa Cabernet, one Bordeaux from the Left Bank, and three others from totally different places - South Africa, Argentina, New York, Italy, Texas, New Zealand - and tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #CabSauvHW. Tell us which one was ur fave (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much u paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. We would love to keep up with what you are drinking!!