Cabernet Sauvignon grapes
A full bodied wine with flavours of ripe dark berries, eucalypt, mint
leaves, earth and cedary oak. Fine tannins create an elegant finish with lingering chocolate flavours.
Cabernet Sauvignon rose to fame from the 1960s onwards, where it was praised for its elegance, structure and purity of fruit. Cabernet Sauvignon was seen as the antithesis of Shiraz - refined and reserved, with an impeccable Bordelais pedigree. It soon became established as the most fashionable of all the red varieties, sitting beside Chardonnay for its class and distinction.
Cabernet Sauvignon quickly found a home in the southern region of Coonawarra. It thrived in the region's terra rossa soil, producing deeply coloured, firmly structured wines with great ageing potential. The long, cool growing season allowed for the accumulation of intense berry flavours, with an undercurrent of regional eucalypt character.
Margaret River also saw the variety excel. The region was established due to its similar climatic conditions to Bordeaux thus Cabernet Sauvignon seemed to have a natural affinity with the region. Beautifully balanced wines with fresh berry fruit and fine tannins are the hallmarks of the Margaret River wines.
Some of Australia's oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines can be found on the Penfolds Kalimna vineyard in the Barossa Valley. The state escaped the vagaries of phylloxera, hence the survival of the 100-year-old vines. The yield and berry size is incredibly small, yet the colour and flavour is extraordinary. The fruit invariably makes its way into Penfolds Bin 707.
Cabernet Sauvignon requires care and attention in the vineyard, with fruit exposure and yield directly related to fruit quality. However its thick skin makes it incredibly resilient to adverse climatic conditions. In the winery, winemakers often age Cabernet Sauvignon in a mixture of French and American oak. However the purists exclusively use French.
Climate has a significant impact on the sensory characteristics of the variety. In cooler climates, minty and leafy characters are intermingled with blackcurrant and red berries. In warmer climates, chocolate and tobacco characters express themselves. However the underlying characters common to all Cabernet Sauvignons are drying, mouth puckering tannins and a hollow palate. The latter is the reason it is often blended with the Merlot.
Australia produces a distinct array of Cabernet styles, unlike any others found throughout the world. A classic Australian blend is that of Cabernet and Shiraz. Fleshy Shiraz fruit weaves itself into Cabernets framework, producing a wine with fabulous structure and flavour. But whether it's a component of a blend, or a stand-alone varietal, the quality and character of Cabernet Sauvignon shines through.
© Toni Paterson 2002