I’m still gonna squeeze another month out of summer, so heavy reds aren’t what I’m gravitating towards. But it’s apparently #CabernetDay today, so of course I gotta give it a little shine. A few other grapes need the attention more, but Cabernet is nothing if not worthy.
A few fun facts:
WHAT’S YOUR FLAVOR? Major descriptors are blackcurrants, cassis, eucalyptus, green pepper, and cedar.
Young: If the grapes were not fully ripe, it can be vegetal, green bell peppery or weedy (from pyrazines, which are destroyed by the sun as grapes ripen).
Middle-aged: blackcurrant, cassis, blackberry, herbs, eucalyptus, mint.
Old fogey: spices, anise, leather, olive, tobacco, cedar and cigar box.
MOM & DAD: Cabernet was originally created by crossing Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
LATE BLOOMER: In the grape world, it’s one of the last major grape varieties that buds and ripens.
WHERE YOU AT?
Bordeaux: Major in Left Bank where it’s blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot. (It thrives here because of the gravelly soil which is well-drained, absorbent, and radiates heat to the vines to help it ripen.)
Napa: King of Cab Country, especially in Oakville and Rutherford, where the soil is dusty and gives the wine “Rutherford dust.”
Washington State: Has a fruitiness and easy drinking style that isn’t overly tannic. Look for Red Mountain, Walla Walla and parts of the Yakima Valley areas.
Chile: The fruit flavors tend to be less well focused, less intense. Still, some good value Cabs can be found here.
Tuscany: Cabernet is often blended with the native Sangiovese to make Super Tuscans here.
EAT ME: Because it’s tannic, you want to eat it with foods high in fat and protein: steak au poivre, beef stews, cheddar cheese. Also good with grilled and smoked food or radicchio.
DRINK ME: So here’s the bad news: I haven’t had many (if any) Cabs or Cab-dominant wines I’ve LOVED for under $20. Cab needs care and aging, which makes it expensive. So I could throw out a bunch under $20 but I don’t know if I’d recommend you spending that money on them, since there are so many other wines that are under $20 and great. Also, I really don’t experiment with Cabs as much as I could. So with those prefaces, a few ones I have loved this year:
Mount Veeder, 2008: Ooooh dusty mountain tannin. Very cool. $45 here.
Los Vascos, 2010: If you gotta go under $20, here’s my suggestion. It’s a completely decent table wine from Chile, made by a team from the famed Chateau Lafite which owns 50% of the winery. $11.29 here.
Opus One: Went to an awesome vertical tasting (where they give you the same wine made in different years). My fave was the 2007 which will run you a mere $179 here.
Charles Krug Generations, 2009: blend of Cabernet, 10% Merlot and 10% Cab Franc. If you want to know what cassis in wine tastes like, this is your guy. Very smooth, blackberry, and of course cassis-y. My only problem is that is has way high alcohol: 15.4%! That pretty much only happens in California – some people like it, some crucify CA for it. This was a lot for me, but the flavors were great. $50 here.
I’m sure other people will have other great suggestions, so look out for them on Twitter with the hashtag #CabernetDay and add your own faves in the comments!