Looking for a Cabernet Sauvignon price guide? We’ve got you covered. Are you familiar with Cabernet Franc, Carménère, or Carignan? Unless you are deep into the wine scene, these grape varieties probably aren’t rolling off the tip of your tongue.
However, the odds are that you are familiar with Cabernet Sauvignon. You have seen it on the wine list of every restaurant you’ve sat down in.
While walking through your liquor store, or scanning your favorite restaurant’s wine list, bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon are prominently displayed. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most well-known grape variety in the world.
Known as the King of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, often just called Cab, is the second most widely planted red grape variety in the United States and the most planted in the world.
According to the FDA, Cabernet Sauvignon increased from 73,585 acres in 2012 to 94,854 in 2019. But Cabernet Sauvignon is not just popular in the United States.
Today there are 840,000 acres of plantings in the world. This translates to just over 5% of the world’s vineyard surface.
How Did Cabernet Sauvignon Come to be?
Stand aside Crime Scene Investigators, DNA is not just for solving crimes. Wine scientists also use modern DNA fingerprinting techniques to find grape varieties’ DNA profiles.
The University of California (Davis) researcher Carole P. Meredith, along with assistant John Bowers, a doctoral candidate in genetics, conclusively determined that the Cabernet Sauvignon vine is the offspring of Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc.
This was a groundbreaking discovery, as up to this point, it was not known that a red grape variety could be conceived from a white grape variety. The crossing that gave rise to Cabernet Sauvignon was a natural crossing, meaning that it occurred naturally in the wild.
Like many breedings, Cabernet Sauvignon took on the best characteristics of each of its parents; the acidity of Sauvignon blanc and the structure of Cabernet Franc. According to Jancis Robinson, who wrote in the Oxford Companion to Wine (1994), Cabernet Sauvignon is “The world’s most renowned grape variety for the production of fine red wine.”
The grape is not one of the ancient varieties. In fact, it is thought to be just over 600 years old and most widely planted after the phylloxera pandemic. Although it is best known for being the major contributor to the left bank wines of Bordeaux, it is not the most widely planted variety in the region.
That honor belongs to Merlot. There wasn’t a more pivotal point in the history of United States Cabernet Sauvignon than in 1976.
On that infamous day in May, a small gathering of wine judges came together to decide the top wine-producing region. The expected result of first-growth Bordeaux and Burgundy chateaux claiming the title was not what the Judgment of Paris proved.
Instead, it was two relatively new wineries that took the titles. Chateau Montelena claimed the top spot for Chardonnay, while the 1973 Stag’s Leap Cellars claimed the title for Cabernet Sauvignon, creating Napa Valley’s stronghold on its production.
What Makes Cabernet Sauvignon Special
Cabernet Sauvignon berries are extremely small. They say “good things come in small packages” and this is true when it comes to fruit. The small berries’ flavors become super concentrated, gain refined textures and complex aromatics as they ripen.
The vines are slow to ripen, allowing the vineyard managers to harvest them later in the season. This is a positive and a negative, as waiting too long can lead to a potential for hazardous weather conditions.
In addition to its fame in Bordeaux, France, Cabernet Sauvignon is currently harvested in every major wine-growing region. It is found as both a single varietal wine and as a blend. This is not by sheer chance. Cabernet Sauvignon’s small berries are pretty resilient.
Although the vine prefers warmer climates, it is capable of surviving through a multitude of poor weather conditions, pests, and diseases. Another aspect of the grape loved by its producers is its ability to age.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes contain many tannins. This can be difficult for some drinkers to swallow, but thanks to its affinity for oak, these tannins are tamed during fermentation and aging.
The marriage of Cabernet Sauvignon and oak make it ideal for assembling a wine that is not only age-worthy but provides structure to the wines it is blended with.
In Italy, Tuscan producers love it in combination with their Sangiovese. Its addition adds structure and a savoriness that adds complexity. In Provence, France, they blend it with Syrah to help its aging potential.
Navarra, Spain bends Cabernet Sauvignon with its Tempranillo because of their similarities, allowing the wine to have an extensive body and aging potential. While in the Mediterranean, where its late ripening is applauded, Israel is known to blend it with Cinsault.
Big Tannins Means You Need a Bit of Patience
The profile of Cabernet Sauvignon is what makes so many wine lovers become enamored with it. Wines produced from Cabernet Sauvignon are deep and dark in color.
The flavors are concentrated dark fruits such as blackberries, black cherry, and boysenberry. It can also provide blue fruit notes as well as that of intoxicating chocolate.
Young cabs will be brighter in color and more pronounced in aromatics. These wines will benefit from decanting. Adding oxygen to the wine through decanting will soften the tannins and overly bold flavors, allowing the aromatics to open up.
If you are patient and allow the wine to age, you will be rewarded with aromas of tobacco, truffle, cedar, earth, graphite, and leather.
Whereas younger Cabernet Sauvignons tend to be unidimensional because of the overbearing tannins, aged cabs offer multilayer flavors and nuances that add to the complexity of the wine.
As opposed to the lingering tannins that dry your mouth, the body becomes rounder and smoother.
Cabernet Sauvignon Price Guide
|Napa Valley, USA||O’Shaughnessy 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon||$75||97 Points|
|Maipo Valley, Chile||Santa Rita 2017 Medalla Real Gold Medal Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon||$20||92 Points|
|Pauillac, France||Château Pichon Longueville 2015||$137||98 Points|
Recommended Cabernet Sauvignons from Wine Enthusiast
This is such an outstanding wine at any price, but here we’re talking about outstanding value as well. Notes of iron and crushed rock lead to a lengthy balance of juicy red fruit and clove.
With small amounts of Merlot, Malbec, Saint-Macaire, and Cabernet Franc, it shows a deft hand at blending with lasting notes of black pepper and nuanced oak. Editors’ Choice.–Virginie Boone.
Plum, berry, and cassis aromas give this single-vineyard sibling of Medalla Real Gran Reserva a riper nose than its brother.
A fruity palate is fleshy and bursting with plum, berry, and chocolate flavors, while this Cabernet is medium in-depth on the finish. Drink now–2024.–Michael Schachtner
Château Pichon Longueville 2015 (Pauillac)
This is one of the great successes of this vintage. It is generous and rich while also solid and structured. The combination of the essence of black currant and the elegant tannic structure are superb.
This is a wine for serious aging and the wine should not be broached before 2026.–Roger Voss
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it okay to drink Cabernet Sauvignon with ice?
The general rule for drinking wine is if you like it, drink it. Do not let anyone tell you how to enjoy wine. With that being said, thanks to its thick skins, Cabernet Sauvignon is a highly tannic wine.
The tannins are responsible for the drying sensation in your mouth. When a wine is cold, the perception of tannins is higher, so you will feel like the wine is actually drier than it is.
2. What food goes well with Cabernet Sauvignon?
There is a well-known saying, “Slab and a Cab.” This is for a good reason. The high tannins and acidity in the wine are perfect for cutting through the fats in the steak. Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine and can stand up to the bold flavors in the meat.
Other options for pairings are meals with cream sauces, grilled meats, peppery sauces, and dishes with savory notes. Something to keep in mind when choosing which Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with your meal is the age of the wine.
Tannins break down as they age, so the older the wine, the less bold of a meal you will want to pair with it.
3. How long can I age Cabernet Sauvignon?
That is a difficult question. A lot depends on where the wine is from and how it was aged. This is not something that you can determine just by looking at a bottle. You need to do some research into what is in the bottle.
If the wine comes from a cooler climate, it will have higher acidity versus a wine grown in a warmer climate. Since acidity in wine helps it age longer, this can help you estimate the potential.
This is one reason why Bordeaux wines are known for their ageability.
4. What are the best wine regions for Cabernet Sauvignon?
As mentioned previously, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in most major wine-growing regions. In fact, only Antarctica does not have any. So, you have a lot of regions to look for a style of Cabernet Sauvignon you enjoy.
The wine region with the highest recognition for its Cabernet Sauvignon in the Old World includes the Left Bank in Bordeaux, Tuscany, Italy (look for Super Tuscan on the label).
When you are considering the New World, look for Napa in California, the Maipo region of Chile, the Margaret River in southern Australia, and the Columbia Valley in Washington State.