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Cabernet Varietal Characteristics

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is grown in a variety of climates and in different regions all over the globe.


by: Amy Lieberfarb

Growing in different weather, soil and water conditions, each vineyard offers a unique flavor influence for the finished product ~ the wine.

Cabernet is a full bodied glass of red often showing dark fruit flavors. In order to appreciate what is in the glass, one must first understand the different characteristics that the wine one is drinking… typically shows. Even when the winemaker uses different techniques and the grapes are grown in various regions, Cabernet Sauvignon will display qualities inherent to its varietal. Firm tannins are noted in great Cab.
Also of note: Cabernet is likely to be bottled on its own, or as a big bold blend.

Classic flavors include black cherry, spice, plums, currant, tobacco, herbs, earth, bell pepper, tar, smoke to name a few. Many Cabernet lovers would say that a fine example of a good glass would be dark purple or dark ruby in color, show firm acidity, balance, full body, higher alcohol levels, concentrated flavor notes and firm tannins. Cabernet likes oak and spends time resting in barrels before bottling. Time in oak helps to slowly oxidizing the wine and soften the tannins for great age ability. Winemakers also influence the style of the end product using oak. Barrels have been shown to add woody, toasty cedar or vanilla flavor to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Common Cabernet Sauvignon Nose or Flavor Descriptors Varietal Aromas/Flavors:

  • Fruits: black currant, blackberry, black cherry
  • Oak (light): vanilla, coconut, sweet wood
  • Oak (heavy): oak, smoke, toast, tar Food Pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Roasted meats
  • Cream sauces
  • Butter sauce

Varietal Aromas/Flavors:

  • Fruits: black currant, blackberry, black cherry
  • Oak (light): vanilla, coconut, sweet wood
  • Oak (heavy): oak, smoke, toast, tar

Food Pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • Roasted meats
  • Cream sauces
  • Butter sauce
  • Salty foods

Pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with Cheese:

  • Blue cheese
  • Cheddar (aged)
  • Gouda (aged)

Notable Regions:

  • Bordeaux
  • Sonoma County
  • Napa Valley
  • Tuscany
  • Australia

Cabernet Sauvignon Fun Facts:

  • Cabernet is among the most widely grown, widely known, and widely enjoyed wine grape varietals.
  • Strong tannins make it easier to age Cabernet Sauvignon in cellars for long periods of time, decades even. 
  • It qualifies as one of the youngest grape varieties created — Originating in 17th century with Cab Franc and Sauv Blanc being crossed. 
  • The varietal is uber hardy. Grape skins are thick with strength with vines that more easily resist disease and rot than other grapes.