Cabernet grapes (like all grapes) grow differently and develop different taste characteristics in different wine regions. For instance, when Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grow in very cold climates and are not able to ripen fully, the flavor of the wine can show a lot of the undesired aromas of vegetal notes, such as olives and pyrazines, which can remind the taste of green bell peppers. In hot climates, the wine’s flavors can suggest baked fruit rather than fresh fruit.
As a wine, Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its dark color, medium to full-bodied, with firm tannin, lean structure, and alcohol content that is over 13.5%.
Cabernet Sauvignon has a complex array of scents and aromas that includes blackberries, black cherries, creme de cassis, boysenberry, blueberry and chocolate when young, to fragrances of tobacco, truffle, cedar wood, earth, lead pencil, black currant, and leather when mature. The wine is dry (not sweet), and the richest wines have dense, velvety texture as well as a considerable amount of tannin that shows itself in the back of your mouth as you sip the wine. The lightest wines are relatively smooth in texture with a medium to a small amount of tannin. The Bordeaux region of western France produces the world’s most legendary wines based on the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. The red wines of a particular part of Bordeaux, known as the Left Bank, are the most Cabernet Sauvignon Dominant Bordeaux wines; they typically contain about 60 to 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Connoisseurs and collectors revere some Left Bank Bordeaux wines that have maintained the highest standards of quality over decades and sometimes centuries. The best Left Bank Bordeaux wines can age for many decades, developing complex, compelling aromas, and flavors of leather, tobacco, and cedar and becoming soft and nearly sweet from their aged tannins.
Given its acidity, tannins, and alcohol, Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that needs to be drunk with food, as by itself, it can be overwhelming. Food matches for Cabernet Sauvignon include Fillet steak with foie gras and truffles, mushrooms, Beef Wellington with honey roasted carrots, olives, Korean-style beef stir-fried in garlic, tangy cheese varieties like blue or goat cheese, soy and sesame.
For 20 minutes before serving, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon should be left to breathe.