It’s 100% cabernet sauvignon

  • Staying true to tradition: Bordeaux is the birthplace of cabernet sauvignon, but Napa Valley is where you will find 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon wines

    Staying true to tradition: Bordeaux is the birthplace of cabernet sauvignon, but Napa Valley is where you will find 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon wines


Let me share some information on the favourite grape in our home.

We are not alone as it is the most planted worldwide even though, historically, it is rather the new kid on the block.

It all happened in the seventeenth century when, accidentally, a cabernet franc and a sauvignon blanc vine crossbred and a cabernet sauvignon was the result.

An appropriate story as Valentine’s Day approaches.

Bordeaux is the birthplace of this grape, but I can think of no examples from this appellation where it is not blended with some, or all, of the following: merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot.

I remember having a chat, many years ago, with one of Napa Valley’s greatest vintners and asking why he made 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon wines.

He replied: “Because Napa is the only place where it ripens to absolute perfection.”

Fighting words indeed, but last year we had a bottle of his 1974 cabernet sauvignon and it was stunning.

The law in the USA is that a wine must be at least 75 per cent of one grape variety to be named after it and in the case of cabernet sauvignon it is not easy to find one at 100 per cent. But here are a few:

My old 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon friend had a winery on the Silverado Trail that runs along the eastern side of the valley and a short distance from it are two producers that also give us 100 per cent.

Shafer One Point Five 2016 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon is described by Robert Parker in this way: “Made of 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five Stags Leap is very deep purple-black in colour and gives up intense Black Forest cake, blackberry pie and blackcurrant cordial scents with hints of liquorice, eucalyptus, espresso, tar and chargrilled beef. Full-bodied, it packs the black fruit preserves flavours and earthy accents into the palate, with a firm frame and great freshness on the finish. 95/100.” $123.20.

The 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon Shafer Hillside Select 2013 rates 99/100 with James Suckling, and Parker gives the 2014 98+, which means it may well reach perfection in a few years. There is no better pure cabernet sauvignon on this planet. These Hillsides are $345.25 and $351.95 respectively.

The Etude 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is handcrafted with grapes from unique benchland vineyards representing the major sub-appellations of Napa Valley. Fruit came from some of the most highly regarded winegrowers in Napa Valley: Vine Hill Ranch in Oakville, Morisoli Vineyards in Rutherford, Meteor Vineyard in Coombsville and Schoenstein Vineyard on the north end of St Helena.

By deliberately sourcing grapes from this group of exemplary vineyards, the assembled wine exhibits the range of cabernet fruit flavours and textures with vitality and finesse.

This is another 95 point wine, this time from James Suckling who writes: “This is dense and exciting with blackberry and blueberry character, as well as hints of pine needles. Full-bodied, firm and lightly chewy. Flavourful and beautiful.” $95.35.

We have many Napa Valley cabernet sauvignons, but as they virtually all have a dab of other grapes in them, I will journey to Australia to offer a couple more one hundred per centers.

Mollydooker The Maître D’ 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon from McLaren Vale is vibrant and generous with abundant juicy red fruit that rolls playfully across the palate.

Blackberries, milk chocolate and soft herbaceous notes make this wine deliciously aromatic. Subtle tannins and fragrant oak reside quietly in the background as flavours of raspberry, plum and mocha give this wine incredible depth and finesse. Wine Spectator rates it 92/100 and comments, “Great harmony and a polished, smooth body add to the charm.” $39.70

I will step aside and let the winemaker uniquely describe his Penfolds Bin 407 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon: “Garnet red. An aromatic umbrella sheltering all things cabernet. An immediate ascent of violet, mulberry leaf, laced with star anise, cinnamon, orange zest, followed by varietal wafts of tomato ketchup, soy, iodine and, oddly, a Chinese spice/stock marinade.

“Not yet exiting this theme, sweet plum sauce, hoisin and roast duck crackling trepidatiously follows. Immediately more Tuscan than Bordeaux in cabernet character. Nevertheless, still very (South) Australian. Savoury, with a sour cherry grip ... and subtle cherry pip oak influence. Mouth-watering and succulent, yet still linear, tempered by appetising angular tannins. Darker fruits and green Spanish (stuffed) olive flavours further define the vintage, style.”

Critic Jeb Dunnock is more on the beaten path: “Another beautiful effort in the line-up this year is the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 407, which is a multi-region cuvée brought up in both French and American oak hogsheads. Classic notes of blackcurrants and cassis interwoven with hints of dill, tobacco, and graphite all flow to a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon that’s fabulously balanced, with good acidity as well as ripe tannins. Give bottles another year or two and it should cruise for a decade or more.” $99.

Trying cabernet sauvignon all on its own without the floral influence of petit verdot, upfront richness of malbec, savoury and pepper of cabernet franc and softer tannins and cherry of merlot is worthwhile, as this great and classic grape can stand on its own.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published Feb 7, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 7, 2020 at 8:44 am)

It’s 100% cabernet sauvignon

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