Famous, fabulous and fabled, Cabernet Sauvignon is responsible for many of the world’s greatest wines and is, arguably, the grandest of all red wine varieties.

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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.

SEE: California Cabernet 2012: 10 top winesCalifornia Cabernet 2013 ‘better than 2012’, say winemakersCabernet Sauvignon reigns in Chinese wine regions, shows report

How does it taste?

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.

Food matching with Cabernet Sauvignon: Wild garlic and ricotta ravioli with lamb soup Leg of Lamb Slow Cooked in Red Wine with Figs, Walnuts and Grapes

Updated by Jeanne Thexton on the 7th of January 2016