Varietal 1: Cabernet Sauvignon | Part D: Comparing Cabernet Sauvignon

With California being the home of Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab) and Cabernet Sauvignon being the legendary wine of California, it is a match made in heaven.  Bigger, bolder, more tannic styles are what most people think of when selecting a cab from California.  Due to the warmer climate and abundant sunshine of California, grapes tend to have higher sugar content at harvest translating to alcohol levels in the higher ranges of still wines.  The result is a wine which feels denser, heavier and bolder than cabs from cooler regions globally.  Small amounts of other varietals, primarily Merlot, are blended to help balance the alcohol and enhance the fruit flavors and aromas.  California Cabs can spend months to years in oak barrels, often a large percentage in new American oak, before bottling.  Secondary flavors and aromas of spice, toast and chocolate are much more prominent in this style of winemaking.  Many winemakers are world famous for this style, but softer, lighter styles are equally important and make food friendly partners across a broad range of cuisines.  Drink them now, or save the bolder, more tannic and acid balanced wines for years to come.  

While California is the modern home of Cabernet Sauvignon, France’s Bordeaux region is the legendary root of the family tree for this varietal.  The milder climate drives fresher, just-ripe fruit flavors and lower alcohol than found in most California Cabs.  Often grown in gravelly, stony vineyards, Bordeaux Cabs can frequently have mineral to pencil lead notes not found in their US cousins.  Bordeaux wines are typically blended and the best partner for Cabernet Sauvignon is Merlot which mellows the bolder tannins and adds to the juiciness of the resulting wines.  Oak influences tend to be very mild as older French oak barrels (milder than American oak) are used and wines are typically in the barrel for less than a year.  Bordeaux’s classification system from 1855 still presides today as an indicator of some of the greatest wines from the region, but these will also come with a cost. 

Top Growing Regions:

U.S. Growing Regions:

  • California – Napa, San Joaquin Sonoma, San Luis Obispo
  • Washington State
  • Other U.S. States:  Utah, Texas, Maryland, Idaho, Colorado

Global Growing Regions:

  • France – Bordeaux
  • Chile
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • South Africa