The Dirt on (and Under) Cabernet Sauvignon

The who, what, why, where, when and how of this mighty black grape


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The fruit character of Cabernet Sauvignon is decidedly black. Hall of fame descriptors are blackcurrant and cassis; blackberry and green olive are runners-up. On the other side of the tasting coin are the non-fruit descriptors. Green bell pepper (mentioned before), eucalyptus, cedar, tobacco, cigar wrapper, spice box and licorice are commonly found. Cabernet is highly structured. Good examples show full body, firm tannins, bright acidity and medium to high alcohol. Before you get to the palate, you notice the impressive color of Cabernet: deep, occasionally opaque and often inflected with blue and purple hues.

It’s quite incredible that winemakers have to work really hard to produce a wine that distorts Cabernet-ness. Even in lesser regions or when grown for high volume wines, Cabernet maintains its flavor and structure remarkably well. This may be partially due to the small size of the berries, which helps to concentrate flavors, tannin and color.

Grapes image via Shutterstock

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  • Snooth User: gustavoa
    130884 1

    I can see this to have some true, I am a Cabernet lover and on the white wines side I had always prefer Sauvignon Blanc.

    Dec 04, 2012 at 1:35 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 7,880

    Very interesting article. Thank you.

    Dec 04, 2012 at 6:20 PM

  • What an enjoyable,concise and well written article. Thanks.

    Dec 04, 2012 at 6:49 PM

  • Wow! Sauvignon Blanc. I would never have guessed.

    Dec 04, 2012 at 11:13 PM

  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,040

    Love the article.
    My question is: What did cabernet franc lack as far as not being able to be competitive with cabernet sauvignon?

    Dec 12, 2012 at 8:55 PM

  • Snooth User: Christy Canterbury MW
    Hand of Snooth
    1060100 91,549

    Zinfandel1, To be PC, it's not that CF "lacks" something but rather that it's just different. In fact, in the vineyard, CF offers some important pluses over CS. CF ripens more easily & is more resistant to inclement weather at harvest. However, CF has less color and less structure (despite its bright acidity) than CS. Also, CS produces more flavor power than CF in milder climates like Bordeaux. So, essentially, CS is better equipped for longer aging.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 8:42 AM

  • Snooth User: Christy Canterbury MW
    Hand of Snooth
    1060100 91,549

    Thanks to everyone for the kind comments! Glad you enjoyed this piece.

    Dec 13, 2012 at 8:43 AM

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