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What does Napa Cabernet Sauvignon taste like?

Created in partnership with the California Wine Institute.

Understand the classic profile of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with our graphic…

Created in partnership with the California Wine Institute.

What does Napa Cabernet Sauvignon taste like?

Napa Cabernet Sauvignon taste

Napa Cabernet profile. Credit Annabelle Sing/ Decanter.


Napa Cabernet Sauvignon has a full fruit profile, with  flavours of dark black fruits, such as blackcurrent, blackberry and black cherry.

Secondary flavours include vanilla, clove and cedar, often produced by American oak ageing – although the flavours vary depending on the kind of oak used, and how long it’s aged, plus whether or now it is new. Each winemakers must make their own decisions on this, with some opting for a more restrained ‘European’ style.

These wines have great ageing potential, often developing further tertiary flavours, such a coffee and tobacco.


Although warm temperatures are needed to ripen the fruit, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon still retains high acidity – which is what helps give these wines the potential for ageing. The levels of tannin are also commonly high, another factor which give these wines structure.

Different parts of Napa Valley have different peak temperatures in summer, with the valley floor, specifically around St Helena and Calistoga, known as the hottest areas. Accordingly, these are where some of the biggest and richest Napa Cabernet wines are produced.

Cabernet is a relatively late ripening grape variety, which means it is often last to be picked in Napa Valley.

Food pairing

‘Bold wines need bold food,’ said sommelier Rajat Parr, in our sommelier guide to pairing with California wines.

‘Grilled foods work well with Californian reds, for example.’

‘Keep your wine and food weights on par,’ said Evan Goldstein MS.

‘Don’t let the food squash the wine by being too rich, or vice versa.’

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