This is part of an ongoing series called Become A Better Taster! Each post will illustrate the essential aromas and tasting notes associated with a specific grape varietal. Use this post as a baseline when tasting your next Cabernet!
What do you smell and taste when you're swirling a dark red Cabernet Sauvignon in your glass? Not sure?
Below is a handy visual guide to the classic aromas and tasting notes you might find in any Cabernet Sauvignon. There will be differences and nuances in texture and flavor depending on the origin of the wine, how it was grown, fermented, and stored (more on that below). Did you know, by the way, that Cabernet Saugivnon is a product of crossing two popular grapes: Cabernet Franc + Sauvignon Blanc? Cabernet Sauvignon carries a touch of both grapes aromatically and on the palate - due to its parentage.
Here are a few more basics to help you find your footing when exploring a new-to-you Cabernet. Clink, clink!
SOME NUANCES YOU MIGHT TASTE
• Old World expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon (such as those produced in France, Italy + Spain) often skew savory and herbaceous, displaying notes of tobacco, anise, rustic red fruit with bits of graphite.
Old World expressions can also carry notes of bell pepper due to their (sometimes) cooler climates. This comes from a compound called: pyrazine (the same compound that can be found in the pepper family that makes the fruit smell peppery). This compound, pyrazine, will generally disapate as the grape receives more sun + heat, found in warmer climates (like the new world) -- making its palate feel a touch juicier and rounded with fruit flavor.
• New World Cabernet Sauvignon is usually more fruit forward. Black cherry, blackberry + chocolate are notes that can be found in warmer climated Cabs.
EZ trick? Think warm climate = bigger bolder fruit notes. Colder climate = more sour red fruited notes that display notes of earth + spice. Love a Cab that feels dark + slinky -- turn towards new world. Love a Cab that feels a touch dirty with a grip of space -- turn towards old world.
What does the barrel have to do with it?
• When aged in new oak barrels, Cabernet Sauvignon will take on notes of baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove) and also, vanillan tones. Smoke is sometimes a bi-product of barrel aging as well.
About its personality:
• Cabernet is thick skinned which lends its palate to more tannins than most grapes (that's the part that makes your teeth feel a little furry or chalky). Important note: tannins are NOT what you are alergic to. This is also why you might decant a young Cabernet -- oxygen will soften out more aggressive young tannins found in more youthful Cabernets.
• The grape also has a good amt. of acidity to it, which can give its wine both a great deal of balance and depth of flavor.
• Cabernet generally does LOVE to be blended with its friends -- Cabernet Franc (ahem, it's father grape), Merlot, Malbec + Petit Verdot. Each one of these 4 grapes, when blended with Cabernet -- can soften, add color, spice and more to the final blend, once blended together with the King of Grapes.
So what are you allergic to?
• Sneezy, runny eyes, itchy nose, a touch of a headache coming in after drinking Cabneret?
Histamines can be found in thicker red skins LIKE Cabernet - which can make you feel this way. Leslee's best tip if you have these reactions: stick to thinner skinned red grapes (like Pinot Noir), or take an allergy med before indulging.
• Note: most blame anything but the grape skin when they have these allergic reactions -- indeed farming has something to do with this, what is actually put IN TO your wine has a lot to do with this -- but also you may find yourself simply allergic to these thicker skinned red grapes that contain histamine.
Best to stick to Sip Better wine, that allows you to feel good all of the wine when imbibing! No additives, sugars, colorings or additional agents added to any of our wines and also our wineries only farm: sustainably, organically and biodynamically.