This thick-skinned, late-ripening variety performs best in the warm, gravelly soils of the Medoc in Bordeaux, usually blended with lesser amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Cabernet can be herbaceous when a little unripe with capsicum notes, becoming blackcurranty or cassis-like often with cedary, musky and spicy qualities. It’s deep-coloured and its assertive tannins and affinity with oak allow the wines to improve in bottle over years if not decades. It is equally capable of producing affordable, everyday reds in regions like the south of France’s pays d’Oc, and countries like Bulgaria and Chile as it is of producing wines with real finesse and class, the best of which come from Bordeaux and California and parts of Tuscany and Australia. Latterly, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina are laying claim to some very good blends and varietals made from Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Sauvignon covers a wide spectrum of aromas and flavours. It tends towards herbaceousness when not fully ripe with capsicum and grassy undertones, but as it ripens it tends towards the flavour of blackcurrant and, when very concentrated, cassis. In California and Chilean cabernet, you can often spot mint or eucalyptus. Its affinity with oak lends secondary characters with a range of vanilla, cedar, sandalwood, tobacco, coffee, musk and spicy notes.