Cabernet in the Mix

Cabernet Goes Global with a Little Help from Its Friends


Very few wines are as pervasive as Cabernet Sauvignon. Planted in virtually every major wine-producing region on earth, it is a grape that is easily adapted to a wide variety of growing conditions.

France’s Bordeaux region is considered the birthplace of Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is also the birthplace of blending to improve Cabernet based wines. The acceptance of blending Cabernet Sauvignon with other grapes, generally other Bordelaise varieties, but frequently with something more typical of the host vineyard, is one reason for the ubiquity of Cabernet plantings.

Wines styled after Bordeaux have their own name in California, Meritage, it rhymes with heritage, though this style is common around the globe. I recently sat down and tasted through a set of Bordeaux inspired blends. While many were classic blends the inclusion of Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Shiraz signal that we have entered a new, global chapter in the story of Bordeaux styled blends.

In Spain a Newcomer makes a Difference with Tempranillo

I was introduced to the wines of Veleta last year, as I met with the owners and tasted through their portfolio. I recently tasted the just released 2006 Nolados and was very impressed with this blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Tempranillo. The 2005 is just as good and has the added benefit of an extra year of bottle age. It's worth seeking out.

2005 Veleta Nolados

Light and elegant in the mouth, with jewel-like fruit that is very precise and mouth cleansing. Really finely balances with polished tannins and ripe acidity that supports dark cherry fruit dusted with bitter cocoa and almond.

A Great Graves relies on Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

Many vignerons in Bordeaux have chosen to increase the role Merlot plays in their blends. The rich fruit and soft tannins that Merlot contributes to the final blend allows for the wine to be more accessible in it's youth, but sacrifices little in the way of agebility. Chateau le Bonnat produces lovely, typical wines of the Graves region, that are great right out of the gate but improve in the cellar.

2005 Chateau Le Bonnat

Very well knit in the mouth with medium body and just a touch of astringent tannin poking through the flesh. The acids are refreshing, and the flavors well balanced between the slightly woody, herbal and spice tones on the palate and the core of dried cranberry and red currant fruits.

A California Classic that Epitomizes the Meritage Ethos

St. Supery has long been a producer of classic Napa Cabernet, but with Elu, their Meritage blend, they take things to a higher level. This blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec is rich, balanced, pure yet complex. A case study for the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

2004 St. Supery Elu
The fruit is red and sour on the palate, yet at the same time has a deep, sweet, liquory quality. There’s some café au lait going on in the mouth but the fruit is pure, rich and edged with a filigree of herb, spice, licorice and orange peel. This feels lovely and youthful with a fine life ahead of it. A perfect wine for Prime Rib.

Mentioned in this article


  • I find it confusing when the terms cabernet and cabernet sauvignon are used indifferently in an article, as they are different varieties: cabernet (or cabernet franc, as it is sometimes called), is a lighter grape variety, used e.g. to great effect in the wines from Chinon. Cabernet sauvignon is the quintessential Bordeaux variety (I read somewhere that the DNA of cabernet sauvignon indicates indeed taht is it the "off-spring" of cabernet and sauvignon (blanc).


    Oct 13, 2009 at 12:25 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    I have used Cabernet when referring to the grape in the generic sense. The line "Cabernet based blends" refers to the fact that both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc based blends are included in the report.

    You are correct that Cabernet Sauvignon is indeed the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

    Oct 13, 2009 at 3:07 PM

  • Snooth User: hugh27
    Hand of Snooth
    253137 65

    As a wine Professional I am pleased that the comment in your article is losing credibility- yes when wines became popular some 20 years ago Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay were planted everywhere- to the detriment of the Classical wines from many regions- but reality has surfaced and the Cab planted in these regions has faded to a deserved memory of dismal, bitter, tannic taste and wines lacking in fruit and structure- Now historic blends are returning and hopefully Cabernet is gaining the true recognition it deserves from regions where it belongs, Bordeaux, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and California- but it still is not drinkable young and the other varietals now grace the dinner table at a young age- The Wine artists that have crafted wines for centuries should dictate the varietal and style, not the pencil pushers
    Drink well
    Hugh Sutherland

    Oct 13, 2009 at 5:38 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,942

    So I'm curious, Greg, why no points ratings for the top three, though for the others below them?

    Oct 13, 2009 at 6:12 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    It's a technical difference. For the wines that are included in the email I have to cut and paste the reviews and make them fit in a finite field. For the wines that are article only, my reviews are pulled in their entirety for display. So it's really a logistics issue.

    Oct 15, 2009 at 11:22 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,942

    Any way to add the points in for the email-condensed examples in the full article?

    Oct 15, 2009 at 3:51 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    Not with the way things are structured at the moment I'm afraid.

    Oct 16, 2009 at 11:15 AM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,574

    DM - if you click on the wines to go to the wine detail page, the points are in Greg's full review. But, as he says its the way the content management system creates the snippet, it truncates the review.

    Oct 17, 2009 at 11:54 AM

  • I have come across a Chateau Allegret which is a blend of 60% Cabernet and 40 % Merlot which was a wonderful experience. Any comments and advice will be appreciated and acted upon. Thank tyou.

    Nov 09, 2011 at 10:52 PM

  • Write your comment here.

    Nov 09, 2011 at 10:53 PM

  • Does the
    "points system" have any credibility? I seem to see a fraud here!

    Nov 09, 2011 at 11:14 PM

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