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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

Toasting National Cabernet Day — Cheers!

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An impressive, thuderous Cabernet

Did you know that Aug. 30 is National Cabernet Day? It’s neither an officially holiday nor has it been given any presidential decree. It is actually a social media event where wine lovers around the globe are invited to celebrate Cabernet in all its forms. Its website (cabernet.event-bright.com) describes it “like a giant dining room table where anyone is welcome to pull up a chair and join the conversation.” Not only will the Cabernet be flowing, but so will all the tweets.

Cabernet is the undisputed “king” of red wines. No one will dispute its greatness, nobility and ability to give pleasure. It is the top red wine by volume and dollar figures sold in the U.S., and for good reason. It is the quintessential red wine.

I would say that when most people who have never had red wine think about trying one, it is the image of Cabernet that they have in their minds or palates. It has bold flavors that anyone, from the uninitiated to the full-blown wine fanatic, can enjoy. You need not have the most sensitive palate to enjoy its intense flavors of black fruits, very often melded with plenty of vanilla, toast and spices from new oak aging.

Cabernet is somewhat of a barometer for wine drinkers as well. Almost everyone compares other red grapes to it in terms of weight, tannin and flavor. It can have some herba- ceousness if coming from cooler climates, or if it is Cabernet Franc you are drinking. It can be as thick and rich as Shiraz if it comes from warmer climates, such as the Barossa or Napa valleys. It can easily reach 15 percent alcohol and still have plenty of structure.

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Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon fights like a heavyweight

Speaking of structure, this is where it excels over almost any other. It can carry plenty of weight yet attain a velvetiness of tannin that can rarely be approached by any other varietal. This confluence of structure and its ability to exhibit wonderful ripeness also give it the wonderful capability to age gracefully.

I’ve been privileged to drink some Cabernets from the 1940s and ’20s that have been nothing short of sensational. And as those examples showed, they can be as complex as any other wine in the world, Pinot Noir included.

Cabernet also is a blue chip. Just look at some of the most sought-after and dear (read expensive) wines in the world, many of them are Cabernets. The First Growths from Bordeaux, Lafite, Mouton, Latour, Haut Brion and Margaux, along with Cheval Blanc and Ausone are Cabernet-dominated blends. You’ve heard of the Cult Cabs such as Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Colgin, Dalla Valle, Araujo and Bryant Family, which are more like household names these days. They are symbols of affluence and privilege as well as some of the best wines on the planet.

I also believe that Cabernet is still a grape that can express its terroir or origin very well. It may not be as sensitive or exacting as Pinot Noir or Riesling, but if given the opportunity, it will speak of a place in its own vocabulary.

So raise a toast to Cabernet on Aug. 30 – or any other day, for that matter.

Recommendations: 2010 Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) Thick, rich, gobs of red- and black-flavored fruits. It fights more like a heavyweight despite its meager price. 2008 Adobe Road Knight’s Valley Bavarian King Cabernet Sauvignon ($89) This is a thunderous version of Cabernet Sauvignon. It has copious amounts of fruit and a glyceral texture that is nothing short of impressive. A note of cocoa greets you on the full-throttle finish.

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