Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon's popularity is undisputed, as it is the most purchased red grape in American restaurants. Hailing from the Bordeaux region of France, it has made its home in countless countries from Eastern Europe to Australia, having a devout following among wine drinkers. This full bodied & tannin driven variety ages beautifully, and it is not uncommon to find Cabernet Sauvignon offerings among the most expensive on your restaurants wine list.

Sales & Service

Styles of Cabernet Sauvignon

The predominant style of Cabernet Sauvignon is full bodied and rich; having elevated tannin and alcohol levels. Regardless of where it is grown, this grape is almost always in need of food, as it is prone to overpowering many dishes. The old world versus new world comparison is important to articulate to your guests, as new world drinkers of the grape do not often enjoy the tannin driven styles found in the old world. In Bordeaux, France, the home of the grape; you find some of the most expensive and age worthy red wines in the world. These wines tend to be dry, full bodied and have considerable tannin. The need to decant these wines is prevalent, especially if the wine is younger or is known to “throw off” sediment. Visit our Service section for more on Decanting.

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There are many stellar examples of this grape variety in the old world. You find great offerings in Tuscany, Italy, as it comprises the main grape of many fantastic "Super Tuscan" wines. In the new world, this grape can have a more fruit forward style, as is the case with most grape varieties. In Napa Valley, you will find the most expensive offerings of the new world, with the wine being inky dark in the glass and having a immense amount of fruit and body. In the Columbia Valley of Washington State, very respectable offerings are found, with the wine being slightly drier than California, but nowhere near as dry as the old world. Australia produces very respectable Cabernet Sauvignon, as does South America. These wines can be described in a similar fashion to California and Washington State wines.

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Geography

As stated above, the home of Cabernet Sauvignon is Bordeaux, France. It is here we see the benchmark examples that all other red wines are compared to. Italy produces a fair amount of the grape, as does Spain, where is is increasing in total plantings. The United States is the leader of Cabernet Sauvignon production in the new world, with Australia, Chile and Argentina all producing a large amount of the grape. Its influence extends to South Africa as well, as you can find this grape grown wherever fine wine is produced.

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Bordeaux is naturally suited for great Cabernet Sauvignon production, as the proximity to the ocean proves to be a great asset. The moderating breezes come off of the Atlantic Ocean, keeping the cold temperatures mostly at bay while cooling the stifling summer heat France is prone to. The right bank of the Gironde is where Merlot thrives, as the extra fog and cooler temperatures on that side agree with the grape. Cabernet Sauvignon prefers the rocky soil and less fog, as the left bank of the Gironde provides these conditions for the grape.

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California also enjoys maritime moderating influences, coming from the Pacific Ocean. Napa Valley has one of the coldest bodies of water in America, the San Pablo Bay directly at its feet, benefitting from the cool breezes up the valley from the bay. Without these moderating influences, Napa Valley, much of Sonoma County and much of the state of California would be too hot for fine wine production. As seen below, Mediterranean countries such as Italy enjoy near perfect conditions for viticulture, as most of the country is influenced by the proximity to the sea.

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Selling Cabernet Sauvignon

As with all wines, asking the appropriate questions to get to the guests preferred style is important (see the Service section for more). The dryness of Bordeaux can be off-putting to new world Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers, so tread lightly when steering guests away from their desired style. Keep new world enthusiasts in the new world with your recommendation unless they really want to venture out and try something new. Washington State is always a good recommendation for those type of drinkers who want to branch out from Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Otherwise, with Cabernet Sauvignon, it is best to give the people what they want and match the dryness level and fruit profile that they enjoy with the recommendation you make.

Advanced Principles

Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux is the benchmark for the grape and is the competitive set of every producer around the world. Napa Valley has carved out its own style of the grape and people who drink that style usually balk at branching out into drier or lighter examples of the grape. Recommending a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley to a Bordeaux drinker, or vice versa, can be a tricky task and one should inform the guest as to precisely the style of wine they are purchasing.  

It is common for drinkers of the variety to only drink Cabernet Sauvignon, so recommending other grapes should be a selective endeavor, having built rapport with your guests beforehand. It goes without saying that the traditional pairings for a powerful grape such as this would be more on the heavier side, but a service professional should also make their guests happy, so if it is Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as the aperitif, main or difgestif… then give the people what they want.