The Capitols of Cabernet

One of nature’s successful accidents

Some of Chile’s most renowned Cabernets come from the Maipo Alta region, which is a little cooler; here Cabernet Sauvignon produces elegant wines characterized by intense black currant flavors with a hint of eucalyptus. In the warmer regions, it gives richer and fast developing wines with a softer tannic structure, sweet fruit and less acidity. 
Argentina has been growing Cabernet Sauvignon in the Mendoza valley close to the Andes for over 100 years, and some of the finest examples again come from the cooler sites. Wine producer and journalist Gabriel Dvoskin pointed out that Argentina is the only region in the world to grow a "continental" style of Cabernet Sauvignon and told me that there are currently a lot of experiments going on to define the specific characteristics associated with this style. This is may be why often Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon is typically blended with Malbec. In general, Argentinian Cabs are quite exuberant and high in alcohol, and young drinking wines show typically a lot of bold stewed fruit. 
South African Cabernets often show a lot of ripe sweet fruit as well as some herbaceous and minty notes, whilst in New Zealand herbaceous characters and cassis flavors tend to be more dominant. Although some single varietal South African Cabernet Sauvignons are excellent (especially from the Stellenbosch area), the Bordeaux blends remain popular. In New Zealand, Cabernet Sauvignon is generally grown in the warmer region of Hawkes Bay, but even here it struggles to completely ripen. That is why it often forms the backbone of the excellent Hawkes Bay Bordeaux Blends.
Tasting Notes:
(60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot)
Ruby in color with a nose of red berries, a hint of rosemary and shaved pencil cuttings. An elegant and well developed wine, with a good acidity and velvety tannic structure; juicy on the palate with a lot of red berry flavors and a hint of fresh mint in the smoky finish.
2007 Shafer Hillside Select 2007 Napa Valley
(100% Cabernet Sauvignon) 
Deep ruby in color, with lots of red fruit notes and a hint of eucalyptus on the nose. Very well balanced with a fine grained, almost silky tannic structure; good mouth feel and layers of red and black fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant, dark cherry) flavors, some dried kitchen herbs and a little cigar smoke and cocoa in the long finish.
Dark ruby in color, with a nose of very ripe almost stewed dark fruit as well as a few mineral notes. An elegant, well balanced wine with smooth velvet integrated tannin, a good mouth feel and lovely freshness. Flavors of dark plum, jammy mulberry and blackberry, some sweet spice (cloves, allspice) in the long finish.
Deep ruby in color, tons of blackcurrants and cherries and a hint of  kitchen herbs and dried tobacco on the nose; a very well balanced wine with great freshness, fine grained tannins and elegant texture and flavors of dark berries, black cherry and a hint of dried sage, sweet liquorice and cigar smoke in the lingering finish.
Dark ruby in color, with a nose of black currants, a hint of vanilla and eucalyptus. Full bodied, bold wine with fine grained tannin and a lifted freshness; lots of flavors of cassis and blackberry, a hint of eucalyptus and a spicy, peppery finish.
Dark ruby in color, with an intense nose of blackberries and a touch of cocoa. A bold concentrated wine, with a powerful mouth feel, good tannic structure and a lovely freshness; it shows layers of ripe black fruit (blackberry, blueberry and blackcurrant) , a touch of dark chocolate and some kitchen herbs in the persistent finish.
2008 Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Ultra Mendoza, Argentina
(90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec)
Deep ruby in color with a black berry and cherry and a hint of sweet spice on the nose. A full bodied yet elegant wine with plenty of tannin and an almost silky mouth feel, lots of blackcurrant and cherry notes, and a little sweet spice and cigar smoke in the lingering finish.
Deep ruby in color, with a nose of red berries, a hint of cassis and some cedar. An elegant wine, with a firm tannic structure and good acidity; pretty fruit-forward on the palate with an explosion of red and black berries in the mid palate and a little cocoa and dried herbs in the smoky finish.

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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Mark Suss
    951226 137

    No love for Washington wines? I think they are doing some wonderful things with Cab. I prefer them over the fruit and oak bombs that are far too prevalent in Cali.

    Mar 05, 2013 at 3:48 PM

  • You left off Washington State Wines!

    Mar 05, 2013 at 5:08 PM

  • Snooth User: JonDerry
    Hand of Snooth
    680446 2,917

    Most of these are 100% Cabernet, Washington's great, but mostly blends, no?

    Look for CA to get less fruity and oaky in the upcoming vintages 09'-11'

    Mar 05, 2013 at 7:29 PM

  • Snooth User: Erokthered
    863297 16

    Perez Cruz. Maipo Valley, Chile. Stunning. Serious wine makers. Please look into it. I know they aren't available everywhere in the U.S. but they soon will be. A fairly large importer in the U.S. has just picked them up. Wine buyers...look for it soon. Fantastic Cabernet.

    Mar 05, 2013 at 9:34 PM

  • Remember that in CA you only need 75% of a variet,al to label the wine as that varietal. I would be willing to bet that having a titche of merlot, petit verdot and/or cab franc is not uncommon. Also, WA does make wines labeled as Cab Sauv that are wonderful. Omitting WA (and including Argentina? the land of malbec?) from any discussion of cab sauv was a bad oversight.

    Mar 06, 2013 at 7:59 AM

  • Snooth User: Caroline Henry
    Hand of Snooth
    332026 8,251

    I tried to give an overview of the capitols of Cabernet - as viewed internationally (I am not an American). I tried to include wines which are readily available world wide. Washington wine is very difficult to find outside the US & Canada (there is a small amount in the UK) that is why I did not include it. I am aware that Washington State makes great The Okanagan Valley is another producer of great Cabernets - again very difficult to find outside Canada and this is why it did not make the list. However please feel free to create lists of your favorite Cabernet's as I am always interested to discover new wines!

    Mar 07, 2013 at 7:24 AM

  • In addition to the remarks about argentine Cabernet Sauvignon,I have to say that before 1990,most of the wines this country use to make were blends mostly made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and a lot of Bonarda, these fact was because the creators of them, didn´t know which were the real grapes they were using, but when they started to identify them,Cabernet Sauvignon was the most used type of wine, the reason was that affter all Argentina´s main meal was meat specially grilled, as we call it "asado", so this wine became the perfect mach for pairing with our barbacue. But when we could breed Malbec alone, it became also a wine used for that purpose even now that were are making outstanding wines with Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, I prefer Cab to be serve with meat, on the contrary the next grape that will take the place off the mentioned before, will be Cabernet Franc, and I have to say that actually the ones we are breeding now are excellent, they come from Mendoza, San Juan, Neuquen and Rio Negro, I feel this wine will be the new star, in our constelation of creations in the wine business.

    Apr 02, 2013 at 2:30 PM

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