Cabernet is the “king” of grapes in many people’s opinion. Rich and intense in flavors, Cabernet Sauvignon often typifies the “international” varietal of wine, and is grown in every major wine growing country in the world. So when I read about some exciting Cabs from the new world, I had to try them and invite my friends to taste along with me. Chile, Australia, Italy and California Cabernet Sauvignon all tasted blind. Which came out on top? Depends on who you ask.
First up: Australia. I had my mind set on trying either a Margaret River Cabernet (with a climate similar to Bordeaux) or Coonawara (with the renowned “terra rossa soil”) but sadly, I could not find either, so I picked one from McClare Vale in South Australia. McClare Vale is located on the coast with cool coastal breezes. We drank the three strings 2004 Shirvington Cabernet ($49 from MacArthur Beverages), aged 12 months in 80% American oak and 20% French oak. This is the oldest wine of the tasting, and the age served it well. For me, it was my favorite – rich in complexity, with smooth, integrated tannins, notes of cedar, sweet spice, and elegant black fruit. Medium tannins and acid add to a wine that would be as delicious with cheese (as we had) as it would be with a hearty stew.
Next: Chile. Ah, Chile. Known primarily for Carménère, Chile produces other delicious Bordeaux varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon. To pick up a Chilean wine beyond the big exports, I headed to my new favorite wine shop, Grand Cata, in Shaw. Specializing in wine from Chile, Argentina, Spain, Portugal (with a healthy selection of sherry and port), Granda Cata is a gorgeous space, perfect for weekly tastings. Pedro helped me pick out a beautiful Cabernet from Alto Cachapoal, the two strings 2012 Clos Des Fous, Grillos Cantores ($23- a steal; the cover photo). Planted at 2000 feet of elevation, in alluvial soil with gravel, the vines in the Cachapoal region enjoy a sunny dry site with cool temperatures from the high altitude. It is fermented and matured in cement tanks. This wine had bolder rich red and black fruits, balanced by a smoky, dried tobacco flavor. I also tasted a hint of eucalyptus, bringing a nice herb flavor to the wine. Overall, this wine was delicious, and an awesome deal. Hubby and I enjoyed a bottle just for ourselves the next day.
On to Italy. What else would it be, than a Super-Tuscan! When I first heard this term, I thought that these wines must be unlike anything you have had before because, well, they are super. In actuality, while they are delicious and have a cult-like following, the “super” refers to the fact that the varietals of these wines are not native and outside of the DOC regulations. They are not able to be classified as “DOC” and “DOCG” but their quality (and price) are far beyond Italian wines that hold the premium designation. This two strings 2012 Brancatelli Valle Delle Stelle is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc, aged 6 months in French barrique, with an additional bottle age of 6 months ($25). This Cab tasted immediately like an Italian red, with rich tannins and medium plus acid, and a hint of green pepper. The Italian was a favorite of the tasting group.
Lastly, Napa California. Now I feel like you can’t have a Cabernet tasting without a California Cab (or Bordeaux for that matter). The two strings 2013 Stag’s Leap Artemis is a blend of Cabernet from various sites in Napa Valley, from St. Helena to Coombsville ($45). The easiest to drink of the tasting, this Cali Cab had delicious flavors of fruit-forward dark blackberry and black plum with soft tannins, sweet spice and hint of vanilla. A close second choice for many.
Overall, they were all diverse, either due to their growing environment, the winemaker’s choices or the proportion of Cabernet to other grapes. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night. Cheers!