What’s in My Glass? Cabernet Sauvignon
Ohh, Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape that simultaneously excites carnivores and annoys vegetarians indigenous grape enthusiasts who denounce this thick-skinned variety for encroaching on the lands once devoted to indigenous grapes.
Regardless of indigenous vs. international varietal preferences,nobody can deny that Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely grown grapes in the world, it’s had an exciting rise to fame everywhere from the Americas to Australia and back since it popped up in a French vineyard as the accidental love child of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
Along with its surprising history, the pairing abilities of Cab continue to surprise me.Despite what steakhouses would like you to think, Cabernet can do so much more, thanks to the various climates where Cab is grown, and the styles of vinification. Cabernet is a highly tannic grape, since the individual grapes are tiny and thick-skinned. These astringent chemicals can be harsh and drying, which can make some food pairings less than stellar.
The trick is using techniques (grilling, roasting, smoking) with foods and spices that naturally combat the harsher edge of tannins (proteins, fats, pepper). Classics range from steak to burgers to grilled pork or even eggplant.
The inspiration for this research came as a shocked, appalled, and thirsty Laura recently discovered five bottles of Cab hiding out in the wine fridge–an instant invitation to abandon chicken and put sliders on the menu with the ladies of the Bachelorette Pad. (Polyphenols cancel out all that bad cholesterol right?)
First up was the Raymond 2009, a Napa Cab with some serious oak (read: spice & vanilla) flavors. This juice was intense and bold–great with food, but a bit much on its own. Alongside cheddar and BBQ topped sliders it didn’t disappoint. (And more burgers happily marinated in this juice were AWESOME, and a great use for our leftovers).
A pleasant contrast to the typically bold Raymond was Franciscan Estates 2010 Cabernet, also from the Napa Valley. This juice was much fruitier, with happy black currant notes, and good balance between fruit and tannins. Totally delicious on its own, this juice reminded me of a yogi–distinctly flavored but very flexible.
These wines definitely fit the Napa profile–warm Cali sunshine helps the grapes ripen and show off their flirty, fruity sides unlike more earthy and herbaceous (think: green bell pepper or herbaceous aromas) typical of chillier regions like Bordeaux.
There’s way too much Cabernet going on globally for one post–luckily I still have three more bottles in the fridge!
Cabernet Sauvignon Uncorked:
Laura Loves: This recipe from Epicurious for Napa Valley Cabernet Burgers. (A more artistic take than our “let’s just pour wine onto raw sliders” method).
This article for more detailed ins-and-outs of Cabernet (like maceration times and techniques, or how the grape’s high skin to juice ratio makes things crazy).
Fun Facts: Famously expensive “Super Tuscans” are wines that blend Sangiovese and other indigenous Italian grapes with Cabernet. (They pack a punch with more than their price tags.)
In 1976 Napa Valley Cabernet got its due (and start on its rise to wine region Superstar-dom) when the wines scored higher than Bordeaux blends at the Judgement of Paris tasting.
Full Discolosure: These two bottles were received as samples.
Go Big or Go Home Pairing: Napa Cabernet & Steak Au Poivre. Just. Do.It.