In the vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon is incredibly polite. It grows easily and plays well with many different climates (hence its ubiquity in the world’s vineyards). Though not as prolific as Merlot, it’s not stingy with its output. Its vigor means it needs leaf canopy management, but its thick skins and loose bunches help to avoid disease. It buds late and avoids hassling the farmer with worries of spring frost damage. However, it does prefer heat, becoming cranky (and eschewing full ripeness) in cooler climates, even when at home in Bordeaux. It also doesn’t like “wet feet,” preferring well-drained soils like the gravels of Left Bank Bordeaux to the clay soils of the Right Bank. As a late-ripener, it’s the life of the party, lingering on the vine and causing stress in areas where weather at harvest is unpredictable. But, it’s hard wood makes it possible to machine harvest (though top wines are generally hand-harvested). That hard wood also helps it resist winter freeze in harsh climates.
The Dirt on (and Under) Cabernet Sauvignon
The who, what, why, where, when and how of this mighty black grape