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The grand old duke of red grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon has distinctive flavours, enduring appeal and the ability to age for decades. It's at the core of some of the greatest wines of Bordeaux, California and Australia.

Cabernet ripe for picking
Cabernet ripe for picking

No other grape variety, red or white, can lay claim to being a significant component part of as many astounding wines as Cabernet Sauvignon can.  From Bordeaux (its undisputed homeland), to California's Napa Valley, from Australia and to Tuscany Cabernet Sauvignon, often with help from its friends (most significantly Merlot) is the commander-in-chief of vitis vinifera. 

Cabernet Sauvignon is, geneticists tell us, the offspring of Cabermet Franc and its mother Sauvignon Blanc, and therefore was born in Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon, when mastered, provides and explosion of fruit flavours that include blackcurrant, dark-cherry and plums and when allowed to mature there is an addition of cigar box, mint, old leather and spice-galore. And it is this age-worthyness of Cabernet Sauvignon, thanks to it's high tannins and acidity, that elevates it to it's lofty position in the grape hierarchy. 

One thing is for sure though, Cabernet Sauvignon needs a warm growing season.  In cooler years the greeness inherent in its DNA will leap to the forefront.  But with that warm summer, and a blending with grapes such as Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc or Syrah the results can be spectacular.  Structured, firm and chewy when young, softening to mellow, expressive and grand style when mature. 

Dan Milburn on Cabernet Sauvignon: Famous the world over as possibly the most recognisable of the magnificent 7 ‘noble’ grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon is best known for its connection with the classic red wines of the Haut-Medoc on the left-bank of the Gironde river in Bordeaux. It forms the major component part of the Bordeaux 1855 Classification First Growths (Latour, Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Brion and Margaux), making it possibly the most important grape variety in the wine world. In addition to Bordeaux, Cabernet plantings have proliferated throughout the world with immense success, most notably in California, Australia and lest we not forget the ultra-luxurious Italian wines of Bolgheri in Tuscany.

The origins of the grape variety have been the subject of much conjecture over the years, being possibly linked to the Ancient Romans and also in some circumstances to Rioja in Northern Spain. In 1996 however, a team of oenologists at UC Davis in California headed up by Dr Carole Meredith discovered, by DNA typing, that in fact genetically Cabernet Sauvignon was most likely created as the result of a chance crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc back in the 17th Century.

The Cabernet grape itself is quite small and has a very thick skin, giving the propensity for wines with high tannin levels and phenols, especially when having undergone a long maceration, as per the three weeks that is traditional in most of Bordeaux. Cabernet has a great affinity with oak, which in combination can produce wines of great depth, elegance and ageing potential. The natural grape flavours of blackcurrant and dark cherries, combine beautifully with the vanilla and toasty notes of good quality oak barrels to produce some spectacular wines