Cabernet Sauvignon : The most widely planted grape in the world
From Spain to China, via California and Australia, and of course Bordeaux, you are sure to find it. Besides, this grape is one of the most popular in the world. It is able to adapt to an incredible diversity of terroirs and climates. This is Cabernet Sauvignon.
From its French origin
Cabernet Sauvignon is the traditional grape variety of the Bordeaux vineyard and has probably existed there since the 17th century. It expresses itself wonderfully on the left bank, in the Medoc and Graves regions, on an area of 27 000 ha.
Usually blended with Merlot, it can also be accompanied in smaller proportions by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and/or Petit Verdot. It thus gives birth to wines of great finesse in some of the most prestigious Bordeaux appellations: Margaux, Saint Estèphe, Saint Julien, Pauillac.
So much so that the concept of ‘Bordeaux blend’ has become a benchmark across the world.
However, this is not all about Bordeaux. It is also significantly planted in the Languedoc with nearly 16 000 ha and used for producing IGP wines. France has a total of 51 000 ha of Cabernet Sauvignon which represents the 4th most planted red grape variety in the country.
To the New World
Cabernet Sauvignon is exported far beyond French borders as it is the most widely planted grape in the world. We can count approximately 341,000 ha. Surprisingly, China has even become the leading country for Cabernet Sauvignon ahead of France, with nearly 60,000 ha.
After France, California is the other “big region” for Cabernet Sauvignon. It is THE grape variety of Napa Valley where some of the most expensive wines in the world are produced : Opus One, Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle and many more. On the whole, there are around 41,000 ha in the USA and it is the country’s leading red grape variety.
In Chile, Cabernet Sauvignon represents nearly 20% of the vineyard, which is the most widely planted grape in the country. Meanwhile, in Australia, it takes second place just after Syrah. Its ability to withstand drought and a very warm climate has made it popular in all main wine regions from the Hunter Valley to Western Australia, going through Barossa Valley and Margaret River.
In Spain and Italy, Cabernet Sauvignon is much less planted than local grapes. It’s at the origin of top-quality wines and is mainly used for blending.
In the New World countries, warmer climates allow the production of 100% Cabernet wines. Grapes maturation are more advanced so wines are sweeter and have more roundness. On the contrary, Cabernet can also adapt to cooler climates providing it is not too cool. Under those conditions its vegetal and green pepper characters could develop to the extreme.
Cabernet-Sauvignon, a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, is a relatively late grape variety and thus has good resistance to spring frosts. Another point is that it is not very sensitive to diseases, in particular to gray rot (Botrytis), because of its thick skin.
Firstly, it differs from Merlot by its acidity and the quality of its tannins with a nice freshness on the finish.
In majority in the blend, it gives full-bodied wines with a beautiful tannic structure. Cabernet Sauvignon often requires aging in wood barrels. For example, in the Médoc and Graves, aging can last from 12 to 18 months.
In France and in the Bordeaux region, Cabernet Sauvignon rarely produces single-varietal wines because it lacks richness and roundness. This is where the Merlot comes in from 5 to 10% in the blend (up to 50% in more exceptional cases) to add smoothness and balance the wine.
Secondly, Cabernet Sauvignon is very easily identifiable by its aromatic profile. In its youth, it expresses itself on black fruits, red fruits, violet and bell pepper. Then, over time, its “vegetal” aromas merge and give way to more complex aromas of cedarwood, spices and cigar box. The same goes for its tannic structure which melts and becomes less drying.
No doubt, this is the kind of wine which has the ability to age for a long time.
Cabernet Sauvignon is still on the rise and continues its journey !