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Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s most popular red wine. The wines made from this grape vine originating in France are known for their richness, deep fruit concentration and tannic backbone. They are generally full-bodied and can be quite boldly flavoured. While most prefer to be paired with full-flavoured meat dishes, there are some regional variations that will allow you to modify your meal according to their specific character.
5 things you need to know about Cabernet Sauvignon
1. It’s popular. Really popular. At more than 800,000 acres, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted red wine producing grape varietal in the world.
2. Some like it hot. Cabernet Sauvignon is a heat-seeking varietal. When making a Cabernet purchase, look to growing regions with a long, warm growing season. It loves the warmth of Southwestern France, Chile, Australia and California amongst other locales.
3. It’s a wild child. Cabernet Sauvignon is actually the progeny (child) of Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc.
4. It’s a little fruity, but also a little bit spicy. Ripe Cabernet Sauvignon displays fruit aromas reminiscent of blackcurrant and blackberry; however, in cooler climates it can also offer mint and peppery notes, sometimes even bell-pepper-like aromatics.
5. It takes time to mature. Cabernet Sauvignon is often described as impetuous prince that needs time to become a regal king. Young Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines can be tannic and very dry, but with time mature into more elegant well-balanced wines.
5 classic regions making great Cabernet Sauvignon and the flavours to expect
1. Napa Valley, California, USA
Cassis, blackberry, mint, vanilla
2. Medoc, Bordeaux, France
Cassis, cedar, pencil shaving, tobacco, bell pepper
3. Margaret River, Western Australia
Blackberry, mint, eucalyptus, chocolate
4. Columbia Valley, Washington State, USA
Blackberry, cassis, earth, mineral
5. Maipo, Central Valley, Chile
Cassis, blackberry, spice, herb, tomato vine
5 great value regions for quality Cabernet Sauvignon
1. Penedes, Spain
2. Western Cape, South Africa
3. Mendoza, Argentina
4. Aconcagua, Chile
5. Coonawarra, Australia
5 great value Cabernet Sauvignon Ppcks
1. Pares Balta Mas Petit Cabernet, Penedes, Spain (NSLC, $15.62)
5. Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State (NSLC, $21.99, NLC, $21.99, PEILCC, $21.99)
When it comes to food, Cabernet Sauvignon is best paired with rich proteins such as steak. With big, bold styles of Cabernet – such as the top wines from the classic regions – make sure you serve rich, fatty cuts of beef like striploin or ribeye. You can also enjoy them with lamb and game such as duck.
Softer, more approachable styles – often less expensive versions made using a consumer-friendly approach – are still great with beef, but also try them with leaner cuts and meats cooked a little bit longer. A good rule of thumb is match tannic, very dry wines (often the ones from classic regions and at premium prices) with proteins cooked rare and medium-rare and softer, less tannic reds with proteins cooked medium or well-done.
Striploin with mint sauce
- 2 12-oz striploin steaks*
- Roughly cracked pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup mint leaves
- 1 cup parsley
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch dried chili flakes
Directions: Remove steaks from refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes before cooking. Season generously with salt and cracked pepper just before cooking. Place a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Grill for 6 to 8 minutes per side. While steak is cooking, add butter and two cloves of whole garlic to the pan and baste steak with butter as it cooks. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. While the steak is resting, add remaining garlic, mint leaves, parsley, red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, chili flakes and a pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, a few dried chili flakes to a food processor. Blend until well combined. Slice steak across the grain. Serve with mint sauce.
*Tip: I recently discovered I can buy steaks in bulk at restaurant-like prices from [email protected]
Spanish beef and peppers
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 lb beef stewing meat
- 1 Spanish onion, diced
- 1 jar piquillo peppers
- 2 cups mixed mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp pimento (smoked paprika)
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 28-oz can diced tomato
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
Directions: Preheat oven to 300 F. Set a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season beef generously with salt and pepper. Add beef to Dutch oven and brown on all sides. Remove beef and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Add peppers, mushrooms and pimenton. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until mushrooms release liquid. Add the wine, tomatoes, tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and let simmer for 3 hours.
Mark DeWolf is a connoisseur of all things food and drink. He's a creative director with SaltWire and local fare is his specialty. You can subscribe to his Follow a Foodie newsletter here.