Although Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the youngest grape varieties, first appearing in historical texts in the late 18th century, it is responsible for some of the world’s most renowned fine red wine. The most transportable and adaptable of all of the classic grapes, it spread from its historical home in France to areas throughout the globe.
Cabernet wines often have high levels of phenolic compounds, leading to good tannin and structure. They tend to achieve the best balance when blended with the big fruit of Merlot, to create a wine with a smoother mouthfeel. Because it tends to ripen late, it is sometimes harvested before fully ripe, leading to wines with a “greenness” to them.
Cabernet Sauvignon at its best can be found in Bordeaux’s left bank appellations of the Médoc, Graves, and Pessac-Leognan, although it is also used in southern French wines to much lesser renown. The other regions that have had a good deal of success with it are Washington State (Walla Walla, Yakima Valley,) the Australian Coonawarra region, Chile, Argentina, and Napa Valley. Cabernet is also used extensively in Italy’s Tuscany region. Some growers there have rebelled against the local wine laws and have added Cabernet Sauvignon to their blend even though by doing so, their wines are demoted to vino da tavola status. The best of these wineries have become known as “Super Tuscans,” and the first to do this were Sassicaia and Tignanello. A few Cabernet-based wines are also made in Switzerland, Spain, and Bulgaria.