The Cabernet Sauvignon variety is sourced from the French department of Gironde located at the south-east of France (Aquitaine region). It is a vigorous variety of late budding and medium-late ripening. The Cabernet Sauvignon has good acclimatization to well-drained gravel soils, preferably with acid PH. It is prone to fungal diseases that affect wood as stereum hirsutum or wood rot and also the powdery mildew. Time to time, it is also likely to suffer stem dewatering. Its clusters and berries are small, with thick skin and bluish coloured. Vine shoots are hard so they are suited for a mechanical harvest and, at the same time, they are protected against spring frosts.
The Cabernet Sauvignon variety is the prevailing grape in the coupage of the most celebrated wines of the Médoc and Graves regions from Bordeaux. This variety has been praised and cultivated at all the places where grapes are grown for wine production, excluding those too cold regions as Burgundy, because of its relatively late ripening. The reason for such an achievement being the widespread tendency during the 20th century to plant international varieties, where Cabernet Sauvignon proved to be the flagship one.
Its main features in red wines are a potent personality and ability for ageing. Having small berries and thick skin, Cabernet Sauvignon wines usually have deep colour, high tannins content and also relatively high acidity. These are noble wines whose aroma can range from blackcurrant to cedar, although their connexion with oak is such that in young wines it can be difficult to dissociate fruit from wood. Some varieties produce wines with higher phenol levels and oenologists have to be careful with the removal techniques during the harvest, especially when the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have had ripening problems. The high tannin concentration in Cabernet Sauvignon wines enable them to remain in perfect conditions for decades, even centuries, so they might need a long period in the bottle before its intake, as Port wines, to allow the tannins rounding (common in Bordeaux wines). Many Cabernet Sauvignon wines have certain harshness when young.
Unless the Cabernet Sauvignon variety is pretty ripen, its tendency is to produce ageing structured wines but shorter in fruit, so traditionally it has been blended with Merlot to contribute with its fruity and softness nature to the final wine. As the maturing cycle can vary considerable in Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon was planted with Merlot and Cabernet Franc (both earlier in ripening) to guarantee the wine production. The close genetic relationship of the three varieties makes them perfect for its blending. The expression “Bordeaux Blend” refers to the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and sometimes other varieties as Petit Verdot, Malbec and occasionally Carmenère.
The most remarkable about Cabernet Sauvignon is its identity in every single wine where it is blended, even when only contributing with a minimum quantity; nevertheless great wines are only produced in a few regions. The best examples of Cabernet Sauvignon red wines are from the zones: Médoc, Pessac-Léognan, Penedés, Napa Valley, Bolgheri, Sonoma, Santa Cruz Mountains, some parts of the Washington state, Chile, Coonawarra and Margaret River in Australia.
In Spain the Cabernet Sauvignon variety was introduced in the mid-nineteenth century by Marqués de Riscal in Rioja and Eloy Lecanda at Vega Sicilia winery in the Ribera del Duero area, but it was Miguel Torres and Jean León on the sixties who encouraged the Spanish wine producers to appraise this queen variety. Torres Mas La Plana 1970 was placed amongst the best wines in the renowned sentence of 1976 during the Paris blind tasting contest between French and non-French wines.
On 2008, Cabernet Sauvignon was the most cultivated grape variety in Spain. It is especially popular both in the north, in the designations of origin Navarra and Somontano as well as in La Mancha, Ribera del Duero, Andalucía and Priorat. Many wine growers have planted new vineyards in Spain and have the Cabernet Sauvignon grape as first variety.