Cabernet Sauvignon is the red variety that has had the greatest success all over the world. This variety was developed in Bordeaux and began to be well-known towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th.
Given that it has a low output, Cabernet Sauvignon is only grown where a high-quality wine is to be produced. The fruit is very dark and small, with a thick skin. It produces an austere wine, rich in colour and tannins, which is often mixed with other varieties, such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
It possesses an intense colour, vigorous tannins and a penetrating aroma of violets and berries, which makes it ideal for table wines. In Spain it has acclimatized perfectly in zones such as Penedés, Navarra and Ribera del Duero, but it is difficult to find in red wine producing areas which have not grown this star variety in recent years.
Cabernet Sauvignon ripens slowly, which limits its cultivation to temperate zones with mild autumns. In very warm climates and in fertile soils it can sometimes produce a sugary wine lacking in acidity. In cooler climates, on the other hand, it can produce wines with a grassy aroma.
Wine tasters identify it through its dark red colour, with a violet tinge in its first youth that turns to a brick red over time. The aroma recalls blackcurrants in young wines and cedar wood in more mature ones. The taste of young Cabernet Sauvignon wines is quite rough, because of its high tannin content. It adapts perfectly to ageing for two years in oak barrels. Wine tasters look for the woody tones, and appreciate the harmony between the fruity aromas, the concentration of tannins and the flavour of the wood. This variety confers a special virtue to wines for ageing. A great Claret from a good vintage, for example, will keep improving over decades.
Apart from Clarets, Cabernet Sauvignon is found in other French wines of the South-West, such as in Bergerac, the wines of the Midi, and the Loire, where it coexists with Cabernet Franc. In the rest of Europe, Spain and the Centre and North of Italy it is a recent introduction, although some vineyards, Rioja, Douro or Chianti, are a century old.
In Eastern Europe, Bulgaria possesses 18,000 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, almost as much as Bordeaux, and their exports to the United Kingdom and Scandinavia are developing fast. This variety is also present in Rumania, Moldavia, Russia, Georgia, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon.
In the United States, California produces several high-quality wines and in Chile they have been harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon for more than a century, with excellent results. This variety has adapted very well to Australian soils, from Canberra in the South to Hunter Valley in New South Wales, or in other isolated vineyards in cooler climates.
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