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Cabernet Sauvignon: The World’s Most Popular Red Wine

Mar 17, 2017

(VIVINO) - If Chardonnay is the queen of wine grapes, then Cabernet Sauvignon is the undisputed king. It's the world's most planted grape variety, and the driving force behind some of the most prestigious winegrowing regions, like Bordeaux and the heart of the American wine industry, Napa Valley. According to Vivino data, 11.1% of all wines in the world contain Cabernet Sauvignon.

But Cabernet Sauvignon wasn't always so tenacious a colonizer. Thanks to DNA testing, its origins have been traced to Bordeaux, where it was first cultivated in the 17th century. It's the offspring of an unintended and curious crossing between Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Sauvignon combines the best attributes of its parents. As a vine, it buds late, artfully dodging spring frosts in more marginal climates. And its bunches are loosely clustered, sparing the berries from rot and insect infestation. To top it off, Cabernet has a thick skin, a very useful trait that protects the grapes from the deleterious effects of sunburn and wind.

Add to all of this the fact that Cabernet Sauvignon has naturally high levels of tannin, high acidity, and relatively high alcohol, and you've got a wine that handles oak like a dream, with tons of aging potential. It's no surprise that Cabernet has dominated the world's stage.

The impacts of climate and terroir are perhaps less obvious than they might be with a lighter-bodied red like Pinot Noir, but there are still noticeable differences in style. Here's a quick and very general overview to get you started:

Continental and Maritime Climates

Continental climates have clear seasons, but tend to lack the extreme summer heat of the Mediterranean. Grown here, Cabernet expresses blackcurrants and cassis, but also complex aromas of violets, licorice, pencil lead, cedar, and tobacco. If the vintage year is too cool or too wet, troublesome herbaceous notes of green bell pepper can be an issue, a trait Cabernet shares with its parent, Sauvignon Blanc.

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