There are few wine producing regions of the world where Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t grown. For a grape that is today an international household name, it is actually quite a new variety — the result of unintentional cross-breeding between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc in 17th century southwest France.
Cabernet Sauvignon, wherever it may be grown, tends to lend similar traits to its wines: they are rich in tannin, full bodied, deeply coloured and with a noticeable acidity that also suggests its ageing potential. It generally has an aroma of blackcurrant, black cherries and blackberry, with spicy notes.
The grape is used for both varietal wines and as part of a blend, most often with Merlot or Cabernet Franc. These varieties, along with Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere, make up the ingredients of the Bordeaux blend.
There are various factors that could explain why Cabernet Sauvignon has become so ubiquitous internationally. The most obvious reason is that it is easy to cultivate, with a thick skin protecting the grape during its development, and a late budding time that allows it to avoid the spring frost. It produces a high yield, and is also highly resistant to rot and insects. As a result, Cabernet Sauvignon can be found growing as far afield as Canada and Argentina.
Another reason for the rise of Cabernet Sauvignon is simply the appeal of its “brand” – a commonly recognised wine that is more likely to tempt those with less experience of wine.