The Cabernet Sauvignon vine has its origins in southern France. It is a chance crossing of two other vines; Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Cabernet Sauvignon can be found in most wine producing countries around the world including the Okanagan valley. The northern area of the Okanagan is too cool for the growth of Cabernet but the southern end of the valley between Oliver and Osoyoos and into the Simikameen Valley is ideal for this vine. The key to good Cabernet in this part of the valley is to keep yields low so the subsequent fruit is more concentrated and fully ripened.
The vine produces small berries with tough skins. It results in the vine being very resistant to disease and mildew. Top quality cabernets’ contain higher levels of tannin, a natural preservative found in red wines, therefore these wines can be aged for decades which add complexity and develop new flavours. The textbook aromas, bouquet and taste of Cabernet Sauvignon can include black currant, cassis, black cherry, mint, leather, cigar box and cedar. The vine produces better fruit and fruiter wines in a warmer climate such as California and Australia. In cooler climates the resulting wines can often be less fruity and more vegetal with flavours of green pepper.
Many winemakers will age Cabernet Sauvignon in oak barrels to add extra dimension to the wines resulting in smoke, spice and cedar bouquets. These barrels are charred on the inside to add smoky and meaty extracts found in top quality examples. The wine is also used extensively in higher quality blended wines. Bordeaux wines, which can command prices of thousands of dollars per bottle, are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and some lesser known varietals. The term Meritage is used in North America to denote the blend of wines used in the Bordeaux fashion. In Australia the preferred varietal to blend with is Shiraz especially in the Barossa valley region of South east Australia.
Whichever manner in which it’s used, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best varietals in the world and is worth exploring at your local wine store.