Guide to Cabernet Sauvignon Taste & Grape Variety Information

In Bordeaux, France — Cabernet Sauvignon is prized, especially on the Left Bank, for its beautiful structure and depth. Most Left Bank Bordeaux Vintners (such as those in Haut-Medoc) utilize Cabernet Sauvignon as the dominant grape variety in their red blends.

This Cabernet Sauvignon guide is part of our wine grape variety series.  Learn about Cabernet Sauvignon taste characteristics, food pairings, calories and viticulture.

What is Cabernet Sauvignon and What Does it Taste Like?

“Cabernet Sauvignon is a voluptuos red wine for those who dig flavor and depth.”

First and foremost, Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine grape varietal of the grape vine species vitis vinifera.  But it’s much more than that.  Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely grown red wine grape variety in the world.  That’s a good thing too, since Cabernet Sauvignon was recently ranked as the most searched and sought after wine in the world.

It can form a full-bodied, complex, fruit forward and dry wine when vinified correctly.  The Cab grape has received most of its notoriety from being grown in the Bordeaux region of France (especially Haut-Medoc).  Traditionally speaking, this red wine tastes of heavy red and black fruit backed by firm tannins.  Cabernet Sauvignon is a voluptuos red wine for those who dig flavor.

Growing Cabernet Sauvignon 

Cabernet Sauvignon is a choice grape variety for wine drinkers and Vintners a like because of its taste profile and ease to produce.  The vines are incredibly hardy and can grow in an array of climates and terroirs.  They produce grapes with thick skins which are highly resistant to damaging weather like frost and hail.

Cabernet Sauvignon Taste, Food Pairings & Grape CharacteristicsYields are often high, which is a huge positive for wine makers considering that Cabernet is one of the most in demand red wines around the world.  Ironically, if you were to look at it on a timescale starting when humans first tried wine; Cabernet Sauvignon hasn’t been around that long.  It was stumbled upon during the 17th century in Southwestern France, where Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc were mingled together to form a new grape variety.  (This was recently discovered in 1996 where DNA testing was done at the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology).

While it was centuries of quality wine making in Bordeaux, France that gave this red wine so much fame, other regions like Napa Valley in California have helped exponentially in recent years.  Many Bordeaux wine makers are known for blending Cabernet Sauvignon with other varietals, such as Merlot or Pinot Noir.  It’s also worth noting that the climate this grape is grown in has been known to substantially affect its taste.  Cabernet Sauvignon produced in cooler climates will tend to yield a more dark-fruit forward wine.  While warmer climates tend to yield more evidence of acidity and red fruit.

Cabernet Sauvignon Calories 

Old World Cabernet Sauvignon tends to have fewer calories when compared to New World cabs.  On average, expect between 150-170 calories per 5 ounce glass and 720-790 calories per 750mL bottle.

What Does Cabernet Sauvignon Taste Like?

Cabernet Sauvignon Taste Characteristics

Common Flavors and Aromas
  • Fruit: Red & Black (Blackberry, Black Currant, Raisin, Cherry, Plum, Cranberry Jam)
  • Earth & Mineral Notes: Wet Gravel, Underbrush, Cracked Spice
  • Additional Complexities: Cedar, Smoke, Green Bell Pepper, Oak, Olive, Tobacco, Mushroom, Mint
  • Body: Full
  • Sugar: Dry
  • Tannins: Medium-High
  • Acid: Medium-High
  • Alcohol: Varied (13%-15.5% ABV)
  • Finish: Structured, Medium-Long
  • Soil: Sand, Gravel, Stone
  • Climate: Varied (Warm – Moderate Cool)
  • Notable Regions: Bordeaux, France | Napa Valley, California

The Best Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings  

Because of its complexity and high tannin structure, Cabernet Sauvignon is a great choice with any poultry or meat dish.  The rugged spiciness of the wine combined with its dark fruit and earth will easily balance out a piece of filet mignon, lamb or braised pork ribs perfectly.  It works well with most medium to sharp cheeses as well.

  • Lamb
  • Steak
  • Poultry (Grilled)
  • Pork (Grilled)
  • Duck
  • Venison

Recommended Cabernet Sauvignon Cheese Pairings:

  • Aged Cheddar
  • Apple-Smoked Gouda
  • Asiago
  • Gruyère
  • Goat Cheese
  • Stilton Blue Cheese

Since it’s so widely produced all over the world, there are thousands of styles of Cabernet Sauvignon.  You might find some wines are lighter than others, or are blended with other red wine grape varieties.  You might consider making a little quest out of pairing varying intensities of Cab with different foods and try keeping track.

Additional image source courtesy Lang Vineyards.


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