Whilst Bordeaux in France may well be the home of this grape, it is very adaptable and some of the world’s finest wines are produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, including locally. Known as the king of red grape varieties, it deserves its seat at the realm with 11% of total vineyard plantings in South Africa.
Cabernet Sauvignon is triumphant as a grape on its own, but is also frequently blended with other “traditional” Bordeaux grapes such as Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. In fact, I was intrigued to learn that Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of this giant after a natural crossing of the two grapes in the 1600s!
As a late-ripening grape, we have the ideal location, as it particularly prefers warmer climates. Traditional, firm, assertive styles are made here, but the trend is towards more upfront wines driven by ripe, juicy fruit with cedar, tobacco and spicy oak complexity. The best wines from this variety display exceptionally deep colour, the characteristic aroma of blackcurrants (cassis) and have an almost unequalled capacity to age in the bottle. It’s often considered a tannic wine, which means it imparts those slight mouth-drying effects when drinking. This is due to the fact that it is a very small grape with a large amount of skin compared to flesh ratio as well as large pip, both of which contribute to natural grape tannins. Apart from the Bordeaux-style blends mentioned above, Cabernet Sauvignon is also often blended with Shiraz or Pinotage in order to soften these harsh or chalky tannins.
Cabernet Sauvignon is not meant for light and delicate dishes, in fact the wine could simply crush the meal, spoiling the flavours of the dish. It is a complex and full-bodied red wine, pairing well with equally challenging and bold dishes. Popular meats are steak, ostrich and duck. You don’t want to overcook the meats if you’re pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon, as you’ll have less fat and protein components to tame the tannins within. As Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark-red wine, select dark and rich sauces like a dark mushroom sauce, red wine reductions, or a hearty peppercorn sauce.