Cabernet Sauvignon is both a red grape and a type of produced wine. There is a clear distinction between the two because a cabernet sauvignon grape is also used in French wines like a Bordeaux wine. A wine created in the Bordeaux region of France will be a Bordeaux wine and they may use a Cabernet Sauvignon grape or a Merlot grape or other type of grape, so don’t confuse a Cabernet with a Bordeaux, both are from different countries.
What separates a Cabernet Sauvignon from other red wines? First, it seems, a Cabernet Sauvignon or “New World Wine” is starting to take a bit of control in some European regions causing a decline in “Old World” Bordeaux wines. Perhaps it’s the cost difference or the fact that a Cabernet grape has a good growing season in California? Or perhaps it’s all unsubstantiated data that needs further analysis over time.
A cabernet grape requires a long growing season, some regions of the world do not have a long enough growing season to make the grapes ripe enough for a quality wine (Cabernet Wine, Bordeaux wine or otherwise) but the cabernet sauvignon grape, itself, is being grown throughout the worlds vineyards. The cabernet grape is responsible for some of the worlds best of class wines of all categories and has been a huge competitor against other grapes for centuries.
The result is a grape that is very strong in taste, requires some time to age in wine and has a great structure thanks to the powerful tannins it possesses. As we discussed in our holiday gift idea of a sweet merlot wine, potent tannins could give you a sour experience! The mouthfeel will be smooth but the taste of a cabernet may linger in your mouth for many moments after the liquid has been consumed. Never assume a potent tannin will be a sour tannin, some recipes mingle a lighter tannin with the stronger tastes to build a better experience with less bitter bite.
You may notice a cabernet has more aroma than a merlot, this might be because its a bit stronger in nature or it may just be the style of wine created from the cabernet grapes. If you’re looking for a well known New World cabernet sauvignon you’ll probably end up with something out of Napa Valley as cabernet planting in this region doubled in the 1990’s so it’s something of a ‘popular breed’ today.
Napa Valley may be responsible for a decline in red wine pricing over the years due to their ability to grow a long season of cabernet sauvignon grapes where some European regions cannot sustain such a season. This would definitely help decline the popularity of Bordeaux wines given their tougher growing season and low yield where a California wine can spread itself around the world like a virus.
Given a cabernet is going to be a bit more potent it may be easier to start your wine drinking with a merlot. However, in late 2006 the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that reduced the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease [Dec 31st 2006 issue of Wine Spectator Magazine, page 17]… so maybe it’s worth a drink after all!