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Called the “great grape of Bordeaux”, Cabernet Sauvignon is a thick-skinned black grape that makes a good, serious wine – almost of all which are suitable for ageing.
These wines can improve over many years, and often even decades.
In contrast, when young Cabernet Sauvignon can be very tannic – dry and slightly austere – and for that reason it is often blended with other grapes, mainly Merlot in Bordeaux, and Merlot or Shiraz in Australia.
This blend tends to soften the wines and make them more approachable when they are young.
However, Cabernet Sauvignon is also bottled as a 'single varietal' - particularly in hotter ‘New World’ countries like California, Australia, Chile and Argentina.
In these places, the sunnier and warmer conditions get the grape extra ripe which helps to make even young wines fruitier and easier to drink when young.
Cabernet Sauvignon has a distinctive, blackcurrant aroma and can develop flavours of cedar, violets, leather, or even cigar boxes!
Interestingly, recent genetic studies have determined that Cabernet Sauvignon is actually the hybrid offspring of two popular grapes, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet France.
Here are wine expert Tom Cannavan’s top Cabernet Sauvignon picks.
1. Chalk Spring Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Australia, priced at £7.99 at Majestic (or buy two for £4.99 each)
Australia can produce really ripe, very sweet Cabernet grapes which make wines that are very approachable. This one has a bit of age on it though, from the 2006 vintage, so has peppery, herbal qualities too that make it very food friendly.
This is a special parcel of wine just going on sale in Majestic stores now.
This wine has fruity flavours of rhubarb, green peppercorns, blackcurrants or blackberries and goes well with most red meats especially game like venison or lamb's liver with caramelised onions.
2. Domaines Paul Mas La Forge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, France, priced at £8 from Asda
This wine is from the Languedoc in southern France, an area where there is much more freedom for winemakers to experiment, compared to traditional regions like Bordeaux.
It’s made with really ripe grapes and barrel-ageing had added toast and richness to the sweet fruit.
With flavours of blueberry, toast, and chocolate, this wine complements steak, full-flavoured casseroles and braised meat dishes.
3. Eagle Vale Cabernet Merlot 2007, Australia, priced at £11.49 at Corney & Barrow (Note: Corney and Barrow will charge £9.99 a their shop in Ayr or anyone ordering from 01292 267 000 to those quoting The Hour)
This is a fantastic wine. It’s a traditional Bordeaux blend, but this one is from Margaret River in Western Australia, near Perth. Western Australia is a very high quality production area of Australia, and slightly cooler conditions mean wines with a little elegance.
This wine goes well with red meats, lamb or poultry, especially roast chicken or guinea fowl, and has tastes of chocolate, almonds, blackcurrants or blackberries and spices.