Best Australian Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in most major wine producing countries making it one of the most popular red wine varieties in the world. The ‘birth’ of Cabernet Sauvignon is believed to have occurred in 17th century France, through a chance crossbreeding of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
Cabernet Sauvignon arrived in Australia in the James Busby collection in 1832, and despite early challenges, it has since become one of Australia’s true wine success stories. Today the wine drinkers of Australia affectionately know Cabernet Sauvignon as Cab Sav.
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What does Australian Cabernet Sauvignon taste like?
Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like a rich palate of black fruits like blackcurrant, black cherry and plum, with varietal characters of liquorice, mint, cedar and even eucalyptus. The best Cabernets are capable of ageing for many years’ – even decades – softening over time, while retaining their fruit characters.
Several factors are responsible for determining the intensity, complexity and longevity of a Cabernet Sauvignon, beyond where it is grown. How the vines are managed, the winemaker’s approach in the winery, such as how oak is used in its maturing process all impact the wine’s intensity.
Best Australian Cabernet Sauvignon wine regions
Cabernet Sauvignon’s star truly began to rise in the 1970s, with the success of Coonawarra and Margaret River Cabernets, which attracted acclaim for their intense fruit flavours and tight structure. These two regions are generally considered the home of the country’s best Cabernet Sauvignon, though other regions – among them Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale and Clare Valley in South Australia, Mount Barker in Western Australia and Victoria’s Yarra Valley – have also seen considerable success with the variety.
Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
Coonawarra is a place where many of the names on the bottles have been there for generations. While its biggest players are corporate, Wynns most notably, the majority of producers are family owned, including names like Balnaves, Redman and Bowen Estate. About 100 km from South Australian on the Limestone Coast, the region is famous for its ancient ‘terra rossa’ - a strip of fertile red soil over limestone. It is the terra rossa soil, favourable climate and skill of local winemakers that has earned the region its acclaim for producing the very best cabernet sauvignon in the world.
Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon
The Margaret River region is blessed with one of the best grape growing climates anywhere in the world. This pure maritime climate allows a slow and full ripening period with little disease pressure. Margaret River Cabernet is arguably Australia’s best. The wines are medium to full body in style – flush with blackcurrant and bay leaf (a regional signature). The highlight for many is the tannins of Margaret River Cabernet. Suave and polished with latent power are a hallmark.
Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The Barossa Valley is home to what is considered the oldest continually producing Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the world: Penfolds Kalimna Block 42. Each region’s differing climate and soils result in characteristic flavour profiles expressing the variety in a multitude of ways. As in Bordeaux, it is often used in blends. Typically paired with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, or Shiraz to great effect, it has been an instrumental component in some of Australia’s best dry red wines.
Best food pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon
The structure and the all-round shape of Cabernet, including its tannin framework, makes it an obvious choice for robust and fatty proteins. Its rich body, balanced acidity and slightly herbaceous notes make it more than a match for all manner of indulgent dishes, from barbeques to slow cooked meats. In the glass, it is all abundant black fruits with firm tannins and high acidity, meaning the best examples age well and it is perfect with protein-heavy meals, especially lamb.
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Wine Glass for Cabernet Sauvignon
Overall, red wines are best served in larger-bowled glasses, and there are generally two red wine glass shapes - Bordeaux and Burgundy. The larger bowl of red wine glasses, allows you to not only get your nose in to smell the aromas, but it also brings more air into contact with the wine, releasing the flavours and softening the tannins.
The Bordeaux glass is great for an all-round, everyday red wine glass. The characteristic tall shape, open bowl and straight sides allow plenty of surface area for the wine to come into contact with the air, helping to tame the bold tannins of varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon
Discover our guide to wine glasses here