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September 20, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Cabernet Sauvignon

This beautiful brute of a grape is easily the world’s most recognised, best-travelled red wine variety. It is often the backbone of many fantastic red blends, however, it has also been a significant and supportive bone within the New Zealand wine industry—let’s say the neck bone for good measure.

Rumour has it that Cabernet Sauvignon owes its existence to a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc during the 17th century in south-west France. It is a late and sometimes stubborn ripener, so it thrives in warmer climates. The variety’s grapes epitomise ‘concentration’ as the level of colour, flavour, and tannins packed into the thick skin of its minuet dark blue berries is absolutely ridiculous. This intensity means that Cabernet Sauvignon has great ageing potential, provided it is nursed by a decent winemaker and receives some solid barrel ageing.

The variety was brought to New Zealand by James Busby around 1832, and was popular with many of the country’s early winemakers. Cabernet Sauvignon underwent a revival in the 1960s and within a couple of decades it was planted in most wine regions, with the Hawkes Bay being the dominant location for plantings and production.

Wine of the Week

This week’s selection is one of the best value red blends around—the Instinct Cabernet Sauvignon (56%), Merlot (22%), Malbec (17%) ($18-20). The ‘Instinct’ wine range comes from the legendary and acclaimed New Zealand winemaker Kate Radburnd, who uses her years of experience and discerning knowledge to create a unique range of wines with the finest fruit from New Zealand’s greatest regions to match her vision.

Once in the glass, this wine has amazing spice and dark fruit aromas. As soon as I smelt it, I instantly thought of Watties canned black doris plums, with a hint of Ribena concentrate. Although that probably sounds like an absolute nightmare to some, I’m not going to lie; I find the visual deeply enjoyable.

Once tasted, this wine has great tannin depth and could easily be put away for a few years. When matching this wine with food, avoid delicate or spicy dishes as they may end up overpowered or tasting like rubber. I’d pair this with a good old roasted meat dish.


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  1. Raymondo says:

    Yes, Cabernet Sauvignon can be a bit brutal when it is young.
    And beautiful if it is all in balance even when young. With age, it can be incomparable…
    The Pinot Noir and Syrah drinkers should be aware of this!

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