July 13, 2016

Cabernet Sauvignon: The Summer-Loving Grape

Different grapes ripen at different times in different weather. Along with soil, the ripening time is one of the most important factors in deciding what gets planted where. Cabernet Sauvignon is found virtually everywhere you make wine because it ripens quite late. That means it’s less susceptible to extreme summer weather than other varieties. In cooler climates in places like Chile or Oregon it makes wines with delicious blackcurrant flavours but as it struggles to ripen you’ll normally find the most delicious styles in warmer climates. In places like Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon is at its sun-worshipping best.

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It loves long, warm summers. But here’s the thing, just like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t very cool. Though in some of the best places around the world it makes magnificent wines, winemakers nowadays tend to focus on different grape varieties.

Cabernet Sauvignon Around The World

One place that gets round the climate conundrum is Argentina. You know why Malbec is so good? Sunshine. Up high in the Andes, temperatures are cool. Normally, Malbec and Carbernet Sauvignon would just hibernate but because the vineyards still get blazing sunshine, the grapes ripen. That’s why we talk about reds from Argentina being “expressive”. They get all the benefits of cool and warm climates at the same time. Argentinean Cabernet Sauvignon is utterly unique and completely sumptuous.

The Medoc and Graves has exactly the right combination of well-draining soils that Cabernet Sauvignon loves. There’s a whole lot of gravel in this part of Bordeaux. And owing to its late ripening, it means that whatever the summer brings, and Bordeaux can have some real stinkers, as long as September is warm the wines will be ok.

Chateau de Lamarque in Haut-Medoc, home to excellent Cabernet Sauvignon

Chateau de Lamarque in Haut-Medoc, home to excellent Cabernet Sauvignon

Is there any region more linked to crazily good Cabernet Sauvignon than California? It was the driving force behind the “cult of Cabernet” after all. Winemakers across the state created wines that were chock full of flavour and only available in miniscule quantities. Now though, it’s a little bit different. These kind of condensed, full on wines have fallen by the wayside for all of the most ardent collectors. It means wines like the Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon have become the norm. Balance, purity and elegance get bandied round a lot. The opposite of what you may have thought Californian wine was about.

Why Australian Cabernet Is So Special

When we talk about Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, there’s one specific area that comes up time and time again. It’s a relatively small, cigar shaped area where the soil is as red as Mars. That area is Coonawarra. There’s something about the soil, called terra rossa, which Cabernet Sauvignon adores. Put a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon in a line-up of other Cabernet Sauvignons from around the world and even a tee-totaller could tell the difference. You get plumes of eucalyptus, mint and herbs that leap out at you.

So Cabernet Sauvignon might not be the coolest, most cutting-edge grape but it’s certainly one of the most diverse. It’s exactly the kind of grape that we love exploring.
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