Getting to Know Cabernet Sauvignon

Words: Karen Glanfield

Wine Concepts LB 728 x 90
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 Wines

Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted variety on the Excelsior Estate, making up 43% of all plantings. The soil is mainly limestone based, although a small portion comes from shale. The goal is to make wine that shows lots of fruit flavour, as well as soft tannins, whilst maintaining a good structure.

WINEMAKERJohann Stemmet
TASTING NOTESThis Cabernet Sauvignon displays ripe blackcurrant, and dried herb characters on the nose, which are backed  up with some spicy oak notes. The palate is smooth and soft, with beautiful ripe tannins and a long finish.
WE LOVE IT  WITHPeppered Steak with Madagascan Green Peppercorn Sauce

Ernie Els Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

As a leading South African ambassador and one of the most recognizable faces in the world of sport, Ernie Els has long demonstrated a passion for excellence. His focus, discipline and commitment have led to extraordinary golf success, and these same qualities are evident in Ernie Els Wines. Through his many travels around the globe, Ernie has been exposed to and appreciated some of the world’s greatest wines and has decided to pursue this passion for fine wine with the creation of Ernie Els Wines. Ernie befittingly chose Stellenbosch, the noble heart of South African wine to base his operation.

WINEMAKERLouis Strydom
TASTING NOTESA pure, regal and pedigreed Cabernet Sauvignon. It shows a black core and crimson edge, offering a brightness to the densely ripe fruit. The decadence on the nose reminds of milk chocolate melted over baked blueberries, Morello cherries and cream. It is full in body with chalky tannins, imbued by a rich texture and salty liquorice on the finish which delivers finesse and serious length. The palate is rather towering, deep and somewhat closed on release, it will drink well for a decade or more.
WE LOVE IT WITHAsian Sticky Lamb Ribs

Plaisir De Merle Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Plaisir de Merle is situated at the epicentre of the most awarded winemaking regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. It was established by French Huguenots in 1693. In addition to some 400ha under vine, the farm is home to a cutting-edge winery and fine examples of Cape Dutch architecture.

 TASTING NOTESOn the nose, this dark, ruby-red wine shows aromas of red berry fruit, sweet spice and hints of vanilla and oak. On the palate, Firm and ripe in tannin structure, the wine is full-bodied and fruit-driven, with flavours of blackberry fruit, cedar and dark chocolate, and the nuanced sweetness of vanilla. Red-berry fruit shows in the lingering finish.
WE LOVE IT WITHCarpaccio with Caponata

Linton Park Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Singularity, heritage, innovation, variety and commitment come together seamlessly with each Linton Park vintage.

The Linton Legacy was bestowed upon the historic De Slange Rivier farm in 1995 with its purchase by a London based multinational sustainability-driven group. Almost 300 years after its 1699 creation, the hidden Cape gem was interwoven into the prestigious portfolio and rich tapestry of Camellia Plc.

WOWestern Cape
TASTING NOTESRich and full bodied with a generous core of dark berry fruit. A well-balanced wine with firm tannins. Luscious, smooth texture with evocative spice from French oak ageing on the aftertaste. Serve between 15 – 16 ºC for best results and can cellar for 5 – 7 years.
WE LOVE IT WITHLamb Chop with Anticucho Miso

Nederburg The Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Nederburg’s The Manor House collection comprises of single varietal wines made from some of the Paarl wineries best-of-best fruit. The range, that also includes a Sauvignon blanc and Shiraz, is inspired by the beautifully proportioned Cape Dutch manor house built in 1800 by Nederburg’s founder, Philippus Wolvaart.

WINEMAKERSamuel Viljoen
WOWestern Cape
TASTING NOTESAromas of prunes, blackcurrant, cassis, dark chocolate and mocha. Palate: Ripe blackberry and currant, mocha and a hint of oak spice with firm, but supple tannins. A well-structured wine with a lush and round mouthfeel.
WE LOVE IT WITHIndonesian Short Ribs with Plums


Neil Ellis Jonkershoek Cabernet Sauvignon

Neil Ellis’s steadfast focus, on sourcing superior grape varieties from low-yielding, hand-picked vineyard lots in the Cape’s best sites, continues to manifest its merit with a steady stream of prominent awards. The latest awards for the Neil Ellis Terrain Specific Jonkershoek Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 affirm Neil’s ability to track down some of the best vineyard parcels in the country and turn them into outstanding wines; a fitting testament to an unwavering philosophy.

The Neil Ellis limited release terrain specific range of wines demonstrates the distinctiveness of specific vineyard sites and represents the finest quality. This is the signature Cabernet Sauvignon of Neil Ellis Wines with all the hallmarks of the Jonkershoek Valley.

TASTING NOTESKnown for its classical structure and perfect balance of elegance and fruit power, it has complex aromas of blue and black small berry fruit with cedar notes and a touch of mint and fresh herbs. The palate is smooth and plush with a savoury expression, fine but dense tannins and restrained complexity.
WE LOVE IT WITHApple Raspberry Pie

Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

The wine, crafted at Die Bergkelder from three Stellenbosch vineyards planted between 1999 and 2001, was matured for 12 months in French oak barrels. An absolute expression of selecting only the finest vineyards and fruit purity. This multi-award winning Cabernet Sauvignon represents the epitome of winemaker Pieter Badenhorst and the team at Fleur du Cap’s winemaking philosophy.

WINEMAKERPieter Badenhorst
TASTING NOTESThis full-bodied wine is ruby red in colour with subtle aromas of ripe berries and cherries and hints of pencil shavings ending in subtle oak spices. On the palate, this well-balanced wine is velvety soft yet mouth filling with clean soft fruit and elegant oak spice with gentle tannins.
WE LOVE IT WITHLamb Shank Milanese


Kleine Zalze

The Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, a product of an exceptional vintage, is an outstanding representative of Kleine Zalze wines, which are marked by a classical structure and complexity matched by a vibrant flavour intensity. It shows typical Stellenbosch density on both the bouquet and the palate.

WE LOVE IT WITHBeef Trinchado


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

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