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Cabernet Sauvignon - the King of Wine

Updated on October 26, 2009

Cabernet Sauvignon (also known as Bordeaux, in France) has traditionally been called the King of Wine - for its complexity, popularity, long heritage, and, in some cases, its high cost. It is certainly one of the most well-known wines, and one with which even the casual wine drinker should be familiar.

History of Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cabernet Sauvignon red wine grape grows in a variety of diverse locations, from Canada to Lebanon. Originally a French grape - one of the Cabernet's most famous uses is in Bordeaux wines - the Cabernet Sauvignon now has prominent bases in the Maipo Valley of Chile, the Napa Valley in California, and in Tuscany. Despite its enduring popularity, however, the Cabernet Sauvignon is in fact a relatively new grape; it's in fact an eighteenth-century hybrid of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Today, the Cabernet Sauvignon is a highly sought-afterwine in North America and worldwide - and its grape is prominent in many of the world's greatest vineyards, where it is known as the "King of Wine". It is also known as Petit Cabernet, Sauvignon Rouge, and Vidure.

Flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cabernet Sauvignon has a distinctive lacing of black-currant flavor with a spicy note of bell pepper. This aroma ages well; with time, the bouquet of flavors comes to include a variety of other notes, including leather, cedar, tobacco and violets. While a young Cabernet Sauvignon has a high proportion of tannins, this edge also softens in time.


In general, a Cabernet Sauvignon should be aged for between five and ten years for the subtly mature floral, leathery, and tobacco flavors to fully emerge from every sip. It is not uncommon as well to age the Cabernet Sauvignon wine in oak barrels for as many as eighteen months in order to further bring nuance to the wine. By "aging", we generally refer to the aging in barrels prior to bottling. However, aging further at home enables the wine to fully develop, often of many years. Just as wineries take great care to age the wine properly, it should also be stored properly at home - namely, in a dark, cool, humid environment. Even if you don't have a proper wine cellar at home, you can pick up a small 12-bottle wine cooler for around $100, which is a very worthwhile investment. (See for specific recommendations.)


Given its high tannic content, Cabernet Sauvignon shouldn't be matched with something sweet, as the sweetness will be diminished by the tannins. Furthermore, high-tannin foods such as spicy sauces paired with this high-tannic wine will cause the wine to taste bitter and unpleasant. Try the Cabernet Sauvignon with red fruits like currants, with heavy meats like venison, steak, duck, or lamb.

Cabernet Sauvignon Recommendations

If you want to splurge, the $75 2000 Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon is a good bet, as is the $60 Marston Family Vineyard 1999 Napa Valley Cab. For an everyday meal, though, the $18 ($14 at this writing, at Geyser Peak Winery bottle is lusciously dark and fruity, but soft enough not to overwhelm a meal. And one of the best values for your money around is the soft-tannin $8 Renfold Rawson's Retreat Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia, although the McManis Family Vineyards, at $10, might be the best of all: its 2001 vintage won a double gold medal at the International Wine Competition. Or, just browse online for Cabernet Sauvignon at

Whether or not the Cabernet Sauvignon is truly the "King of Wine," it's nevertheless a luscious and elegant grape that deserves your full attention - and perhaps your adoration as well.


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