By Elspeth Brown
The most popular still wine sold at Maggie B’s Wine Store in the month of December is a big, beefy, rich, expensive Cabernet Sauvignon. It is an impressive gift, a perfect pairing for holiday meals such as standing rib roast and Beef Wellington; plus, it is delicious. One of the most expensive wines ever sold was Screaming Eagle 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley in California, topping out a whopping $500,000. Now that is a special wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a wonderful go-to wine during the holidays, but not everyone is in love with the grape. I have a friend who refuses to drink typical big, heavily oak-aged Cabernets from Napa. There is no tricking her either. She can smell a California Cabernet from a mile away. But, luckily for her there are so many Cabernet Sauvignon options. My favorite style of Cabernet is from South Africa. The wine tends to be full-bodied and dry with a hint of spice and everything nice.
Cabernet is the world’s most widely known red wine grape and most widely planted, with 720,000 acres under vine. It originated in the Bordeaux region of France and is a cross between the Cabernet Franc grape and the Sauvignon Blanc grape. It was only discovered to be a cross in 1997 by researchers at UC Davis. Cabernet Sauvignon grape is planted in almost every country in the world. Typically, a Cabernet wine will be full-bodied, with notes of dark fruits such as black cherry, blackberry and plum. It is one of the more tannic red wines because of the grape’s thick skin and small berries.
When red wine has more tannins, the ageability of the wine increases, and when the wine is aged in oak it can be cellared for quite an extended period. Cabernet Sauvignon is a preferred grape among vintners because it is hardy and easy to grow. It thrives in a warm climate, but even in a cool climate it produces remarkable juice that has hints of eucalyptus and green bell pepper.
If the California round, soft, velvety, sweet flavors of vanilla and tobacco aren’t your style of Cabernet, try one from France. This Old World style of Cabernet is much drier, with hints of minerality and earthiness, and less bright fruit in the beginning. Italian Cabernets are unique because of the many different flavor profiles of licorice, green pepper and ripe, dark fruit. Even though you don’t find a lot of Cabernet from Spain, the wine is a must-try with flavors of olives and cocoa. I personally love Chilean, South African and Australian Cabernets because of the wines’ herbal notes and spice.
With the holidays around the bend, customers want special wines. While I always recommend big, beautiful Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa and Sonoma, there are so many fun and interesting options. This year, grab a different bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to drink with your holiday meal or to cellar for the next big holiday. Enjoy the wines—and the ones you are with—this holiday season.
Elspeth Brown is the owner of Maggie B’s Wine & Specialty Store, 10 C South Main Street in Weaverville. For more information, visit MaggieBsWine.com or call 828.645.1111.