Getting to Know Cabernet Sauvignon

Words: Karen Glanfield

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Whilst Bordeaux in France may well be the home of this grape it is very adaptable and some of the world’s finest wines are produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, including locally. Known as the king of red grape varieties it deserves its seat at the realm with 11% of total vineyard plantings in South Africa.

Cabernet Sauvignon is triumphant as a grape on its own but is also frequently blended with other “traditional” Bordeaux grapes such as Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. In fact, I was intrigued to learn that Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of this giant after a natural crossing of the two grapes in the 1600s.

Traditional, firm, assertive styles are made here but the trend is towards more up-front wines driven by ripe, juicy fruit with cedar, tobacco and spicy oak complexity. The best wines from this variety display exceptionally deep colour, the characteristic aroma of blackcurrants (cassis) and have an almost unequalled capacity to age in the bottle.

Cabernet Sauvignon is not meant for light and delicate dishes, in fact, the wine could simply crush the meal, spoiling the flavours of the dish.  It is a complex and full-bodied red wine pairing well with equally challenging and bold dishes.

Popular meats are steak, ostrich and duck.  You don’t want to overcook the meats if you’re pairing to Cabernet Sauvignon, as you’ll have less fat and protein components to tame the tannins within. As Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark red wine, select dark and rich sauces like a dark mushroom sauce, red wine reductions, or a hearty peppercorn sauce.

3 facts you should know about Cabernet Sauvignon

  • As a late-ripening grape, we have the ideal location, as it particularly prefers warmer climates.
  • It’s often considered a tannic wine, which means it imparts those slight mouth-drying effects when drinking. This is due to the fact that it is a very small grape with a large amount of skin compared to flesh ratio as well as large pip, both of which contribute to natural grape tannins.
  • Apart from the Bordeaux style blends mentioned above, Cabernet Sauvignon is also often blended with Shiraz or Pinotage in order to soften these harsh or chalky tannins.

A Selection of Great South African Cabernet Sauvignon

Black Elephant Vintners
The Daniel Collection Amazing Grace Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Black Elephant Vintners focuses on identifying and procuring quality estate-grown grapes cultivated in the Franschhoek Valley and surrounding regions from which it produces and crafts quality wines.The terroir is granite soils on a south facing slope. Canopy management to ensure sufficient sunlight to let the grapes ripen over an optimal period with sugars in the region of a Brix of 25. Fermentation is done on open 500 kg containers with manual punch downs which allows each batch to ferment at its own pace and get individual attention.

 WINEMAKER Jacques Wentzel
 WO Franschhoek
ON THE NOSE A more traditional style on the nose with a strong showing of black current upfront.
 ON THE PALATE The entry is characterised by rounded grippy tannins followed by a smoother calm exit towards the back accompanied by a smokiness from the barrels on the finish
WE LOVE IT WITH Peppered Steak with Madagascan Green Peppercorn Sauce

Boschendal Cabernet Sauvignon

Agriculture and a simple farm lifestyle are at the heart of Boschendal. One of the oldest farms in South Africa. Founded is 1685, the farm has grown with the passing centuries into a cherished source of wholesome produce, great wines and happy memories. Set in the Drakenstein Valley surrounded by dramatic mountain landscapes, lush gardens and vines, the original farmstead complex is now a national monument with a rich and intriguing history of more than 300 years.

Today, Boschendal is a Cape Winelands icon and a cherished wine and food destination. Their vineyards and fruit trees have been joined by vegetable gardens and a growing herd of free-range, 100% pasture fed Angus cattle reflecting their commitment to serving wholesome farm-to-table food.

The grapes originated from high-quality vineyard sites in Stellenbosch and Paarl, mostly from the Helderberg and Simonsberg-Paarl areas. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were sourced from vineyards in the cool, coastal Faure region of Stellenbosch, as well as the Helderberg, planted on soils typically derived from decomposed granite and so-called Table Mountain sandstone.

 WINEMAKER Richard Duckitt
WO Stellenbosch
ON THE NOSE The primary impression on the nose is ripe black fruit with subtle oak spice and herbs, yet vibrancy and depth in its fruit expression.
ON THE PALATE The palate expresses the vintage by bringing together the masculine firmness and length of the Cabernet Sauvignon with a juicy, yummy, fruit core. A seamless integration of oak spice and oak tannin entwined with the Cabernet masculinity adds real depth and complexity to the wine.
WE LOVE IT WITH A juicy chargrilled Black Angus steak with wild mushroom sauce, Asian BBQ lamb ribs or roasted duck breast with berry purée.
Try these Asian Sticky Lamb Ribs

Waverley Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – No Added Suphites

Waverley Hills, the award-winning producer of certified organic wines, is a thriving destination for lovers of wine, food and nature.

Most of the 139-hectre property is occupied by mountain fynbos with 30-hectre under vineyard and 10ha used for the cultivation of olives. Surrounded by a landscaped fynbos garden, this modern winery incorporates a wine tasting room where visitors can enjoy perfectly balanced organic wines that boast soft ripe tannins and robust fynbos characteristics.

So, what makes this Cabernet Sauvignon so unique?
During the winemaking process, the winemaker needs to be extra vigilant and attentive. While he may not add any artificial sulphur to the wine, small amounts of sulphur can be produced during the fermentation process. For a wine and its label to state that it has ‘no added sulphites’, the SO2 needs to measure less than 10ppm(parts per million).
This wine is vegan-friendly; no animal by-products were used in the production. Due to this wine having no preservatives, it is recommended that it be kept chilled and enjoyed immediately.

 WINEMAKER Johan Delport
 WO Tulbagh
 ON THE NOSE Blackberries, cherry tobacco and black olives. This wine is forward on the nose and complex for its vintage
 ON THE PALATE Delicious fruit and spices follow through with soft ripe tannins and a smooth, dry finish.
 WE LOVE IT WITH Carpaccio, Thai prawn curry and rich chocolate cake.
Try this Carpaccio with Caponata

Landskroon Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Landskroon Wine Estate, established in 1692, is currently owned by the families of Paul and Hugo de Villiers. The cellar is situated on the south-western slopes of Paarl Mountain, where the De Villiers family has been winemakers for five generations.

Looking for a great out? Visit Landskroon Wine Estate and enjoy their many offerings, from food and wine pairings to wine tasting and you can even bring your own picnics (with prior arrangement). There is a play area for children, a permanent display of stone age artefacts, cellar tours (on request) and pensioners day every Wednesday.  Should you wish to prolong your stay, enquire about the self-catering cottage on site. 

The palate of this wine echoes the nose and shows balance and complexity, allowing bottle ageing potential. Enjoy with cheeses, matured red meats and venison. An excellent red to buy online and stock up on at this pocket-friendly price.

 WINEMAKER Michiel du Toit
 WO Paarl
 ON THE PALATE Full-bodied with dark berry flavours and touches of cedar and spice.
 WE LOVE IT WITH Matured red meats, venison and cheeses.
Try this Venison Wellington

Want to learn about other wine varietals? Check out what we had to say about Chardonnay | Chenin Blanc | Red and White Blends | Shiraz.

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