Cabernet Sauvignon is the world's most-planted grape variety; it is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
The small thickly skinned grapes give deeply coloured wines with lots of tannin and acidity and strong aromas of blackcurrant, black cherry, pepper and mint. Oak is frequently used, softening the tannins and adding smoke, vanilla, coffee and cedar flavours - some might say cigar box. Cabernet Sauvignon cannot ripen in cool climates or cool years, but is a good variety for making wines which age well - its appeal is less about primary fruit aromas and more about the subtle flavour compounds which evolve over years of bottle ageing.
Bordeaux is the classic home for Cabernet Sauvignon - it has a moderate maritime climate with long, warm autumns. Although it is almost invariably blended with other grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety on the Left Bank and the best sites are on gravel grounds. The wines have high levels of tannin and acidity, medium alcohol and a long finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon is widely grown in Australia, and Chile produces high quality varietal and blended wines which often have green pepper and blackcurrant leaf characteristics accompanied by black cherry and blackberry flavours. The best regions are the Maipo and Colchagua Valleys.
South Africa produces some very good blends and varietals, which typically have less intense fruit and more herb flavours. The wines from Stellenbosch are close to the Bordeaux style and have high levels of tannin and acidity.
Anthony Byrne Fine Wines Ltd. Registered in England and Wales with company number 01713692.