This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Oct. 6, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20081006.php.
Wine Focus - Cabernet, King of grapes
Given a ballot listing eight popular grapes (plus the always-useful "other," Rogov's readers gave a noisy shout-out to Cabernet Sauvignon, which led the sweepstakes with a solid 44 percent of those voting. Pinot Noir was second at 22 percent, with Syrah, Nebbiolo and others trailing.
Why does Cabernet Sauvignon reign supreme, even with the strong sentiment behind Pinot Noir and others? The consensus seemed to be this: Not only does Cabernet Sauvignon produce great wine in its natural home, Bordeaux, but it can be coaxed to make wine of similar class, elegance and grace in many world regions, from Calfornia's Napa and Sonoma Valleys to Australia's Coonawarra, Argentina and Chile, South Africa and many more.
Even its closest competitor, Pinot Noir, was considered until quite recently to be a "heartbreak" grape that could be grown in other parts of the world but that rarely if ever reached world class outside of Burgundy. While growers in places like Oregon, California's Russian River Valley and New Zealand's Central Otago are starting to challenge that assumption, Cabernet Sauvignon still holds the lead for many wine lovers as a grape that can make truly great wine in many places.
As autumn comes to the Northern Hemisphere and reawaken interest in serious, tannic red wines and the red-meat fare that traditionally accompanies them, we're turning our attention to Cabernet Sauvignon (and Cab-dominant Bordeaux-style blends) this month in Wine Focus, our monthly wine-education feature on the WineLovers Discussion Group forums.
Among questions we'll put to the test this month: How does 100 percent varietal Cabernet Sauvignon compare with Bordeaux-style blends? Side-by-side "blind" tastings would be the most effective way to draw this conclusion. Moreover, how difficult is it to find true 100 percent varietal Cabernet? Wine regulations in most regions require only 75 percent of a specific grape to qualify for full-varietal labeling. Back labels or Websites may tell, but sometimes they don't. And finally, of course, we'll try to compare and contrast Cabernet Sauvignons and blends from around the globe, hoping to draw our own conclusions about whether terroir matters and whether Bordeaux's brand remains the market leader.
To participate in Wine Focus, simply click to
Once you've registered, if you'd also like to vote in Rogov's poll, you'll find it here: Wine Poll #009: The King of Red Grape Varieties
Today let's kick off the month with a tasting report on Kunde Estate 2004 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. At $19 in this market ($22 winery price), it's tagged a bit above everyday wine for many wine enthusiasts. Sadly, although I would be delighted to learn of specific exceptions, I find that lower-priced Cabernet, particularly those in the range of $10 or below, tend to be anonymously short on varietal character.
In fact, the Kunde is not a 100 percent varietal wine. In the 2005 vintage, at least, the winery Website reports, The addition of Syrah, Malbec, and Petit Syrah "adds color and richness to the wine." Still, I find in it plenty of varietal character to serve as a decent benchmark for Sonoma Cabernet. You'll find my tasting report below.
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Kunde Estate 2004 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.99)
Very dark reddish-violet with a garnet edge. Good, benchmark California Cabernet scent, black fruit with hints of black cherry and currant and perhaps just a whiff of dark chocolate in the background. Flavors are consistent with the nose, bright and fresh black fruit nicely shaped by zippy acidity. There's a touch of soft tannins, but any astringency is eclipsed by good, juicy and not overdone fruit. Although it has a bit of non-traditional fruit in the blend, it remains varietally correct for Cabernet and stands as a good introduction to the grape. (Oct. 4, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: Although Cabernet Sauvignon is a natural with beef or lamb, I love it with roasted or grilled chicken. It was a triumph with a butterflied free-range chicken roasted at high heat, and made a particularly appealing match with the crispy skin.
VALUE: It's hardly a cheap wine (and the $22 price at the winery is a bit more), but it sits at the lower end of the range you'll pay for quality Cabernet Sauvignon; note also that it is often found discounted.
WHEN TO DRINK: Top Cabernets will age for many years and gain complex and delightful flavors with maturity. Less pricey bottles like this one shouldn't be kept for decades, but it could still make an interesting experiment in cellaring for five years or more.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, we're skipping some Fridays at this point, and the Wine Advisor FoodLetter, customarily distributed on Thursdays, has been on break. I hope to resume it before long.
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