Cabernet Sauvignon is king, or at least of the red wine grapes, parented by Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, it is the most famous and widely planted red wine grape in the world. The Cabernet Sauvignon is a thick skinned, small grape that adapts well to different soils, which helps give the the grape a sense of place – a Napa Cab is both a grape and very pronounced wine. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes tend to be high in color, tannin and extract. Wine aged in new oak will have characteristics of cedar or sometimes tobacco, which leads to vanillas, caramels, cocoa or chocolate on the palette.
Old World Cabs, from Europe, tend to be higher in acid and tannin levels. These wines are made to age well, unlike New World Cabs which are typically drank young. In the Old World, major regions for Cabernet Sauvignon includes Bordeaux and Tuscany.
New World Cabs, specifically California/Napa Cabs were put on the map at the Paris Tasting of 1976. This was the now infamous event where, in a blind taste test, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ Cabernet Sauvignon was given top honors against some of the best wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, changing the course of California winemaking and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Cabs from Napa are typically thought to be high in alcohol and tannin with strong fruit content. Today, we’re seeing Napa and California winemakers bring Cabs back to a more traditional Old World style with black fruit, earthiness and minerality, balanced acidity and lower alcohol.
A DNA analysis done in 1997 identified the Cabernet Franc as Cabernet Sauvignon’s parent grape. Prior to that, Cab Franc grapes were commonly mistaken for Cabernet Sauvignon and often planted next to their offspring. The Cab Franc is believed to hail from the west Pyrenees Mountains in the Basque Country (in northern Spain). Traditionally, they were used as blending grapes in Bordeaux style blends. Cheval Blanc is a world class wine that is made from 65% Cabernet Franc grapes, clearly showing that potential of this grape. Cabernet Francs are slowly coming on as a stand-alone varietal.
Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is lighter in color, tannins and body. They tend to have more fruit components and a prominent herbaceousness. Tastes of red fruits, raspberries and cherries and flower notes like violets, lilacs or lavender. In France, major growing regions are the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, with other major growing regions in Italy (Fruili, Bolgheri and Tuscany) and the U.S. (Napa, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the NY Finger Lakes).
Visit any of our retail wine shops and let our sommeliers and knowledgeable staff help pick out the perfect Cab for you!