By Jen Pfeiffer
Last night, I had a couple of glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon, which got me thinking about the variety.
While Cabernet Sauvignon is considered a traditional variety, its origins appear to begin in the 17th century, when an accidental crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc vines (not wines) occurred in France. Cabernet Sauvignon seems to have inherited the best qualities of its parents – the black berry fruit from the Cabernet Franc and the herbaceous-ness from the Sauvignon Blanc.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are small, deeply coloured, and very tough-skinned. The thick skins make Cabernet grapes fairly resistant to disease and capable of withstanding heavy autumn rains, which is a good thing because the grapes ripen late in the season. The skins are also what give the wine its strong tannins.
In Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon is the second most widely planted red grape variety behind Shiraz. Coonawarra is famous for producing world class Cabernets, with intense fruit flavours and minty notes. Margaret River has established itself for its Cabernets, with dark fruit flavours and distinctive herbal notes. The Cabernet Sauvignons from the north east of Victoria typically show great balance between acidity, tannin and red and black berry fruits.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a great wine to serve with rich dishes. Red meats, such as beef or lamb pair well, as the protein and fats negate some of the tannic qualities of the wine, allowing the fruit flavours to shine. Try it with a rare roasted beef, with horseradish mustard, or lamb shanks in rich gravy and you won't be disappointed.
Vegetables that pair well with Cabernet Sauvignon are mushrooms, radicchio, endive and capsicum. Char-grilled capsicum and mushrooms on the BBQ will work really well served alongside a steak and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
For those of you into cellaring wines, Cabernet Sauvignon has a great ability to age in the bottle. The intense fruit flavours and the strong tannins both soften with age, giving way to more complex flavours and textures.
Well, with all this talk about Cabernet, I think I better have another glass tonight! Why don't you join me?