Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most, if not the most, popular wine varieties in the world. In fact, it is the most planted wine grape in the world. It’s bold flavors and high tannin content make this an age-worthy red wine. This is also why Filipino wine drinkers love Cabernet Sauvignon as it is a natural pairing to the bold and rich flavors found in Filipino food.
But for those not yet accustomed to Cabernet Sauvignon, or are curious to know more about this popular wine, we’ve created this guide. We’ll go over the history of Cabernet Sauvignon as well as its common flavor profiles, what foods to pair with it, as well as the best way to serve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Let’s start with its history. Cabernet Sauvignon was originally produced in France, largely in Bordeaux. Then in 1976 a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley beat the Bordeaux variety in a blind taste test known as the 1976 Judgement of Paris. It’s after this that Cabernet Sauvignon became popular across the globe in Chile, Argentina, Australia, Spain, and Italy.
Interestingly, in the 1990’s scientists in California discovered that Cabernet Sauvignon was in fact a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Although the Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon leaves look very similar, no one would have thought that a white wine could have been the parent to this bold and powerful red wine.
This brings us into what Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like. Since there are so many variants of Cabernet Sauvignon on the market, it’s worth going into the general tasting notes you’d find amongst regional Cabernet Sauvignons. After all, wine gets a lot of flavor from the climate - or terroir - the grapes grew in. This means you’ll just as easily find a Cabernet Sauvignon that is fruity as one that is smoky.
The original home of Cabernet Sauvignon, here you’ll find the wine gets a lot of flavor from the gravelly soils in Bordeaux. However, in Bordeaux most Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are used in blends to produce the famous Bordeaux Blend. Nevertheless, they will be savory and age-worthy. Expect to taste notes of black currant, anise, tobacco, and plum sauce.
The American Viticulture Area (AVA) includes Napa Valley, Sonoma, and other regions that all produce fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon. This is because the grapes do well in sunny and warm climates, which thanks to the San Pablo Bay is found in the AVA. Despite being a hot area, the bay brings in morning fog that helps the grapes ripen slowly. Cabernet Sauvignon from this region will often have tasting notes of black currant, tobacco, mint, and blackberry.
Chile is known for producing some of the best value and exceptional quality Cabernet Sauvignons. Those regions producing the best varieties are from the Maipo, Aconcagua, Cachapoal, and Colchagua Valleys. The Maipo Valley for example, benefits from the cool breeze of the Pacific Ocean and the hot inland Andes Mountains. In short, this is an ideal climate for growing and producing Cabernet Sauvignon. Common tasting notes include blackberry, fig paste, baking spices, green peppercorn, and black cherry.
Similar to the Chilean climate, South Australia has a good climate to produce Cabernet Sauvignon wine. The Coonawarra region for instance has a warm climate and red clay soils that have a high iron-oxide content. These conditions have resulted in some of the more unique and exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon wines. You should expect to taste black plum, white pepper, chocolate, bay leaf, and white pepper. Also, don’t avoid the screw cap bottles! It’s common from the Cabernet Sauvignons from Australia to have a screw cap closure and it doesn't mean they are of any less quality than those with a cork.
Now that we have an overview of the different tastes - with some overarching similarities - of Cabernet Sauvignon, what should you pair with it? Well, the easy thing with Cabernet Sauvignon wines is that they’re almost made to be enjoyed with food (alone they can sometimes be too much on the palate).
An almost natural pairing is any high-flavor red meats such as burgers or a juicy steak. Cabernet Sauvignon also pairs well with dishes that have a peppery sauce. But what about Filipino dishes? What Filipino food pairs well with Cabernet Sauvignon?
Well luckily, as Cabernet is a bold wine it goes well with bold foods. This means there are many possibilities for good pairings with Filipino food as there are many rich dishes to be found. Some of our recommended options are arroz a la cubana, crispy pata, caldereta, and we even think it could pair nicely with kare kare.
The temperature you serve your wine can have a big impact on its overall flavor. With Cabernet Sauvignon, if the temperature is too low it will be overly tannic and acidic and if it is too high it can be too alcoholic. Now some say to serve red wine in general at room temperature. But in the Philippines where the room temperature (without an air conditioner) can be quite hot, we don’t recommend this.
Instead, aim to serve Cabernet Sauvignon at about 15-20°C. To avoid getting out a thermometer we suggest simply placing the bottle in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes before serving. We also recommend decanting the wine if possible to help release more flavors by introducing more oxygen. However, using a wide-bowled glass will also help. This type of glass, also known as the Bordeaux glass, provides more surface area for the wine to make contact with oxygen. It also makes it possible for you to get all of the aromas of Cabernet Sauvignon before you start drinking it.
However, if you want to drink your Cabernet Sauvignon out of a regular wine glass or even a regular glass, go ahead. We just hope that you enjoy your wine as much as you can. If you'd like to discover the different flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon, browse our selection of this red wine variety to find your new - or maybe old - favorites!