Sustainable, organic and biodynamic wine in Minnesota and online. Today we're talking Cabernet Sauvignon.
Varietal Overview: Cabernet Sauvignon
History and Cultivation
The Cabernet Sauvignon grape originally arose as an offshoot of a cross between the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc varietals less than 600 years ago. Many believe that this crossing was unintentional. Although this grape is somewhat newer in relation to other varietals, it is known to make some of the world’s most expensive bottles of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon was first grown in the French wine country in Bordeaux, as is the case with many of the world’s most popular wine-making grapes. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are the dominant varietal in the left bank of Bordeaux, which has poor, sandy soil and rolling slopes. Since the first bottles of Cabernet were produced in France, winemakers around the world have taken to growing these grapes and thus the popularity of a bold Cabernet has increased exponentially in the last century.
Wine connoisseurs worldwide have long anthropomorphized the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal with masculine features due to its boldness, richness, and prominent tannin structure. These characteristics stem from a small, robust, deep purple-to-black grape with a thick skin and hearty vines that are easy to cultivate and relatively resistant to environmental trauma. In addition, Cabernet grapes tend to grow with a fairly consistent structure which ultimately leads to a consistency in flavor. From a wine-production standpoint, this makes the Cabernet varietal a no-brainer in the field. These hearty grapes can grow anywhere from Lebanon to Canada and typically produce fairly high yields as well.
Tasting Profile and Pairings
As like any grape, difference in environmental conditions and climate will ultimately lead to differences in the flavor of the finished product. In general, warmer climates will lead to a Cabernet Sauvignon with a higher sugar content and thus a jammier flavor with more pronounced notes of blackcurrant, black olives and cherry. In a cooler climate, this profile shifts to greener flavors on the palate such as green pepper and cedar.
In its native soil of Bordeaux, France, Cabernet grapes grow in a temperate-to-cool climate that experiences relatively consistent weather. Therefore, Old World Cabernet from this region will naturally present with greener flavors. Old World Cabernet is typically blended, with some of the best blends containing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In fact, it is extremely difficult to find an Old World Cabernet that is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Like much European wine production, Old World Cab is typically un-oaked, which yields an earthier and greener wine with notes of green pepper, warm spice, currants, and cedar. However, in French oaked Cabernet Sauvignon, hints of vanilla and more prominent warm spice can be detected.
One of the most characteristic elements of Cabernet Sauvignon in both Old and New World production is the bold tannic presence. This high level of tannins leads to a wine that is noticeably dry on the palate. Therefore, it is best to avoid pairing such a tannic wine with starchy foods such as potatoes or pasta, as the dryness of the wine will not pair well with and tone down the starch.
Accompanied by the unoaked peppery spice in Old World Cabernet Sauvignon, the product is a bold wine which can be paired with a heavier dish with stronger flavors. An Old World Cabernet Sauvignon can be paired with nearly all red meat such as prime rib, new York strip and filet mignon. In addition, this wine can hold its own against a pepper-crusted ahi tuna steak. This is not to say that a bold, Old World Cab cannot pair well with vegetables, such as roasted or grilled Portobello mushrooms.
New World wines in general tend to be sun-rich and full of fruitiness. This is indeed the case for New World Cabernet Sauvignon such as that which is found in California or Australia. These wines tend to be heavily-oaked, have strong flavors of vanilla and caramel, and are comparably sweeter than Old World Cabernet Sauvignon. New World wines can also stand up to most red meats, and may also be a showstopper with sweeter, more savory cuts such as rabbit and lamb. In addition, these wines should not be overlooked for dishes such as barbequed short ribs or a burger. In general, sommeliers tend to suggest fattier cuts of meat to pair with New World Cabernet, as these wines tend to be fuller and more well-rounded and therefore can complement the fat of a marbled New York strip.
Pair a bold Cabernet Sauvignon with this recipe!
Braised Short Ribs
6 (about 4 pounds) bone-in short ribs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 white onion diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic crushed
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season all sides of the short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy, oven-safe pot over high heat. Add in olive oil and allow to heat briefly. Sear short ribs in olive oil, about 1 minute per side. Remove from pot and set aside. Add in onion and saute 2 to 3 minutes. Add in garlic and saute 1 minute more. Pour in beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer. Add in meat. Place a rosemary sprig on top. Cover and transfer to preheated oven for about 2.5 hours, until meat is tender.