One of my favorite snooty server stories involves Cabernet Sauvignon. The tame version of the story can be told in three words: a possible misunderstanding. The unvarnished version involves a egomaniacal waiter who clearly didn’t know his vino and tried to convince me that the white wine he brought to my table was indeed the Cabernet Sauvignon that I ordered.
Today is National Cabernet Day, and after reading this post, you’ll have plenty of ammo in the event that the aforementioned server is headed to a steakhouse near you.
¡HOLA! ME LLAMO: Cabernet Sauvignon is a bodacious red wine that’s considered an international variety, meaning that despite its origins, the grape grows well in a variety of conditions outside its homeland and still makes beee-you-teeeful wine.
MY ROOTS: Cabernet Sauvignon originated in France’s Bordeaux region and today it’s one of the most widely planted red wine grapes in the world. California’s Napa Valley and the Left Bank of Bordeaux are considered home to some of the best examples of Cabernet Sauvignon.
ALL ABOUT ME: Pucker up, chicos y chicas! This wine has some grande tannins, those flavor compounds that make your mouth feel astringent. Tannins are your friend, because they add complexity and texture to a wine. Not a tannin fan? If you age Cabernet Sauvignon, the tannins soften over time. As for flavors, Cabernet Sauvignon has a plethora of palate-friendly flavors and aromas. Think black currant, dark chocolate, blueberries, black cherry, coffee, and bell pepper (usually found in cooler climate Cabs). A nicely aged Cabernet Sauvignon will give off elegant cigar box aromas, vanilla, cinnamon and toffee. New World Cabs (Napa Valley, Argentina, Chile, México) are all about the fruit and tend to have higher alcohol. Old World Cabs (France primarily) are lower in alcohol, less fruity and fill the palate with earthy aromas and even lead pencil.
You may be scratching your heads about the pencil part, but trust me – it’s nothing like that time in sixth grade when the class bully put pencil shavings in your cheese sandwich (true story – it happened to a classmate in Sister Eileen’s homeroom on a rainy day. Not sure if it was a cheese sandwich. It could have been tuna salad. But I digress). It’s a subtle but pleasant sensation that tells you you’re drinking a mighty fine glass of wine.
FOODS I LOVE: For me, Cabernet Sauvignon means it’s rack of lamb time. Remember the tannins we talked about earlier? Well, they bind with fatty food and become a little more tame. Did somebody say triple-creme Brie? Bring it on! For my fellow peruanos in the house (and the peeps who love us), serve up some lomo saltado and pour yourself a big, bold glass of Cab. And if you’ve got grill duty this Labor Day weekend, steak, sausage and burgers go great with Cabernet Sauvignon.
DO TRY THIS AT HOME: This Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon from Achaval Ferrer recently appeared on my radar. If you’re into rating systems, the 2014 Cabernet Mendoza was awarded 86 points by Wine Spectator and 93 points by Tim Atkin. Pick up a bottle for anywhere between $20-$27 depending on the vintage. And if you’re feeling nostalgic for the 90s, “crash into” this Cab from Dave Matthews. Yes, that Dave Matthews. The músico is now making wine under the Dreaming Tree label with winemaker Sean McKenzie. The 2016 vintage gives you aromas of blackberry, plum, caramel, and…wait for it…dark chocolate. This wine sells for about $12-$16. Feeling kinda fancy? If you have an extra $190, check out Newton Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Spring Mountain from Napa Valley. According to the winemaker, it’s “both balanced and wild, with hints of herbs, mulberry and violets.” Yum.