Tag Archives: cabernet sauvignon

Thick skin, big pips – how Cabernet Sauvignon came to dominate

One of the most well known wine grapes in the world, one that crafts the age-worthy collectibles of Bordeaux and California, the red variety we call the “King of Grapes,” a grape planted in just about every wine growing region in the world, and the grape that has it’s own day (August 30) to celebrate it. That’s right. We’re talking Cabernet Sauvignon.

But from where did Cabernet Sauvignon originally hail? Due to its popularity and its ability to grow in so many places, one would think it dates back to the beginning of wine as we know it. But in fact, Cabernet Sauvignon is a fairly recent variety. Thanks to DNA testing, we now know that it spawns from a crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Seems obvious given the name, but fascinating nonetheless. The grape can have what we call a “bell pepper” characteristic, something found in both Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

Cabernet Sauvignon established itself as one of the premier wine varieties of the world by having a number of distinguishing characteristics.

1. Thick skin, big pips. Kind of metaphor in our own life, too – you need those things to survive, flourish and become king, which defines Cabernet Sauvignon in the grape world! With a high pip to pulp ratio, and those thick skins, the grape is super high in phenolics. That makes wine with lots of color and pretty significant tannins.

2. A “varietal” flavor blended with a reflection from where it’s grown. This may sound like every grape, but Cabernet Sauvignon is in fact unique in this. Not only does it taste like Cabernet Sauvignon, it tastes like the region from which it comes.

3. Ageability. Chalk that up to those thick skins and big pips. High phenolics can make a wine that ages, and ages well. Examples of course are Bordeaux, some California Cabernet, and more new world bottlings that are proving what the grape can do.

Cabernet is also a blender. Rarely does it produce top quality wines on its own (though it can). Instead, it is backed by supporting roles from grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and, in the new world regions, grapes like Syrah and Carmenere. It is one of the most well-known grape varieties in the world. It’s unique, yet adaptable. It graces many a table, pairs well with a steak and is a go-to bottle for many.

So stock up on some Cabernet and celebrate the King of Grapes on August 30.

 

The ageability of Cabernet

One of the most attractive aspects of Cabernet Sauvignon, especially to collectors, is its ability to age. For a long time. The bountiful phenolics of the grape produce a wine able to age for a very long time in the cellar. Not that every Cab should age, but those made have that ability, and for those who have tasted the result, you are well aware of the benefits you reap when you age the right bottle.

So how do you know if a bottle is worth throwing in the cellar and for how long? For those not terribly experienced with knowing wines, regions, grapes and which wines are meant to age, it’s pretty difficult. A wine’s ageability can only be assessed once it is tasted. It has to have the structure, the backbone, the complexity, the balance and a certain weight to it to be age-worthy. Not to say it has to be a heavy wine, but it needs substance. So many wines taste good right now, right away, and they are meant to! Those that will benefit from age may taste delicious now, they may not. They may taste “tight” or “tannic.” Once you’ve tasted enough wines, you may know which can be cellared longer than others. Until then, take a few things into account.

Region– certain regions are known to produce age-worthy wines, like Bordeaux, Piedmont (Italy), Rioja… And others are known to produce drink-them-now styles, like Australia and Chile. However, regions known for aged wines and regions known for early wines both will produce the opposite as well.
Producer – may be a better way to gauge whether a wine has that cellar potential. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild certainly does not produce a bottle meant to be drunk the same year, while Yellow Tail probably doesn’t make many bottles that will last more than 2.
Price – I realize you should never judge a bottle on price, but if you find a Cabernet under $15, I’m going to take an educated guess that keeping it in the cellar 20 years will NOT make it taste better. Quality wines meant for long term ageing will probably have a higher price tag.
Reviews – I don’t mean ratings, I mean the actual reviews. Read what the critics have to say. They have been tasting wines for some time and have an idea of how long a wine might be able to age. They are not always right, but they often give ranges of when a wine could be drunk.  It may not be exact, but it could help in figuring out if it’s your ideal wedding wine or your 10 year wedding anniversary wine.

Remember, wine is not an exact science, there are no rules that cant’ be broken and it’s all about you. Also remember the majority (and I mean over 90%) of wines are meant to be drunk within the first few years of release. Cheers 🙂

WineShopper Tasting Notes

A few of the Wine.com staff got together to taste some of this week’s WineShopper wines. Here’s what they had to say:

Geyser Peak 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Kristin: A little restrained at first but opens up nicely with some lush berry flavors, nicely integrated tannins and oak – how can you beat this Cab for the price!? Serve at your next dinner party and watch them ooh and ahh.

Matt: A solid fruity cabernet with plum and cherry flavors that will have your friends guessing the cost of the bottle is double of what you actually paid. I’d recommend having this with pork or a hearty stew.

Kristine: The smokiness and berry flavors definitely stand out. Not overly bold for a Cab, making it easy to pair with a variety of meals and pleasing to a variety of palates. The price makes it taste even better, a great selection to stock up on for a party.

Heggies 2007 Chardonnay

Kristin: Very nice nose with abundant fragrant citrus and some floral, crisp and steely on the palate like a fine Burgundy, just the right amount of fruit to balance some nice acid – I would definitely pick up a bottle of this wine to serve with a French influenced meal.

Matt: A refreshing Chardonnay with lemon and citrus flavors that would be a great addition to a BBQ or a Sunday picnic in the park. My friends and I tried the bottle on the weekend and they all loved it.

Kristine: Mmmmm…what a delightful fruity smell. Crisp and medium bodied with a notable amount of acid.

Bodegas Palacio 2005 Reserva Especial

Kristin: Wow, is this a Rioja? Very appealing peppery, almost jammy nose and ripe fruit flavors, with the classic acidic backbone you expect in a great Rioja – my favorite of the bunch for its great balance of fruit, oak and acid.

Kristine: Beautifully dark, pleasantly peppery, and enjoyably acidic. Loved it. Also my favorite of the three. I would serve this with pork chops during a romantic dinner for two.

One of the other Wine.com staff snuck off with the bottle before Matt could enjoy it.

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Tasting the Kenwood Artist Series

Last night I had the pleasure of tasting the 2004 Kenwood Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon. Excellent wine. Excellent story.

The Story Behind the Wine:  Each year, a different artist draws the label for Kenwood’s Artist Series, hence the name Artist Series. For the 2004 vintage, a man named Shepard Fairey kenwood labelwas chosen to draw the label. You may recognize the name – Fairey is the man responsible for taking an existing photo of Barack Obama and putting it in color, creating the iconic HOPE poster that became synonymous with the campaign. He is hailed as one of the most influential “street artists” of our time. The label he created for the Artist Series portrays a “Peace Woman.” Says Kenwood, “the "Peace Woman" is a symbolic representation of the peaceful, nurturing side of humanity. Fairey feels that the female trait of empathy should be embraced to maintain a balanced society.” Sounds good to me! 

The Wine: The 2004 marks the 30th release of the Artist Series from Kenwood, which is a blend of the best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon from the vintage, with 3% of Malbec mixed into the blend this year. Almost 80% of the grapes hail from Sonoma Valley, the remainder coming from Dry Creek Valley. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and receives 30 months of barrel aging. It hangs out in bottle another year and a half before release. Those are the technical details, now for the taste.

Deep garnet color, with concentrated ripe blackberry, current and some vanilla on the nose. While rich normally describes texture and mouthfeel, I couldn’t help but want to label the aromas as rich. Kind of like blackberry pie. Drinking it confirmed all in the nose, as well as a touch of cedar. Tannins were ripe and silky and the finish lingering. Good structure and intense, but not one I’d throw in the cellar for very long. Everything was so silky smooth already, I didn’t get that extra kick behind the structure that suggests improvement with significant cellar age. Though it could easily withstand a few more years in the cellar, I don’t know how much it would change, or if I would like it better after cellar evolution. Which is not necessarily a bad thing! It’s a drink-it-now style of Cabernet. And it paired great with my steak.

Pairing Wine with Fireworks

As with all fun, festive celebrations, beverages are key to your Fourth of July party.  And because you’re celebrating our nation’s birthday, keeping the wine American is a nice tribute. After all, our wine industry has come a long way since Mr. Jefferson’s attempt at vine growing in Virginia. As we gear up for the grill and what will go on it, I’ve been pondering the question – What to pair with it all?

Here are some wine picks for some typical 4th of July grills – some are common matches, but that’s because they work so well!


Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah – my pick for meat

So these choices are slightly typical. But We’ve got a great deal on the Rubicon Cask Cabernet Sauvignon ‘05, and it’s one of my favorite California Cabs (organic grapes, too!) – it’s perfect for a small gathering as it’s a more pricey wine. It would be amazing with a grilled ribeye with just a little salt & pepper. Yum…

For larger get togethers, you’re going to want fun AND affordable – stock up on Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon ‘06 – good producer for under $20.

Love Syrah with meat. I’m often torn between peppery, spicy Syrah vs. Juicy, fruit-concentrated Syrah… It’s great to find a wine with both and the Havens Hudson Vineyard Syrah ‘04 does just that. But it’s also on the more pricy side, at the $40 mark – but SO worth it! If you’re really adventurous, try pairing it with grilled leg of lamb.

For the everyday (under $20), crowd-pleasing Syrah, try Bonterra’s Organically Grown Syrah ‘06 or Bonny Doon’s Le Pousseur Syrah ‘05.


Oregon Pinot Gris– my pick for chicken and/or veggies

Oregon Pinot Gris is so delightful in the heat. It’s refreshing, but also so aromatic and lovely to sip over a summer evening. It’s hard to recommend producers as I have not yet had an Oregon Pinot Gris that I didn’t like! Some favorites include Adelsheim, Elk Cove, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Eyrie, Willakenzie Estate and King Estate. Most are on the ‘07 vintage, which was a cool vintage so the wines are nice and crisp. 2006 was warmer and that vintage produced a richer style of wine.


Rosé My pick for pork, chips & salsa or anything with a spicy kick!

Rosé can be a great aperitif before the dinner, but a hearty one will go great with pork or another meat, especially if you have some spice on it. From lighter style to heavier style & from dry to sweet – Etude, Bonny Doon & Red Truck’s Pink Truck are nice matches. Note that the Pink Truck is off dry, so some spice is nice (try salsa on the pork).


ZinfandelMy pick for burgers

The great American grape. With the great American food. The sweet fruits & spice are a great match to a juicy burger. Bogle Old Vines or Gnarly Head are great value Zinfandels. If you want to go a bit higher, try the Murphy Goode Liar’s Dice – it’s got some kick to it. Ravenswood is a reliable producer with lots of different single vineyard wines to try and Ridge is a classic – the Three Valleys is a great burger pick.


Bubbly –  My pick for fireworks

Okay, so you’re not grilling fireworks, but you definitely need some bubbles when you watch them! At the $20-ish mark, I love the Roederer Estate, Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs and Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose. Also a great choice is the Argyle Brut – best bubbly in Oregon! So pop the cork and watch those fireworks sparkle.