Number one in the world
In 2010, in the United States, it was decided to establish the Thursday before Labour Day as National Cabernet Sauvignon Day.
With 850,000 acres planted on our planet it is by far the most popular wine grape and its nearest rival, in second place, is Merlot with 657,000 acres. I remember once asking a winemaker if he would tell me his favourite wine. His rather snarky reply was, “do you prefer blondes or brunettes?”. I got the message and confess to using it myself on occasion as it is just too difficult to answer. I will however share the fact that Cabernet Sauvignon rates very highly in our home. It is used to produce some of the most wonderful wines and so let me travel from old to new world and share a few with you.
We must start in Bordeaux where it all began, and we now find 67,000 acres dedicated to our grape of the day. It was originally thought that it was responsible for the ancient Roman wines, but DNA testing now indicates that a Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc vine cross-pollinated in the 1600s and their offspring was Cabernet Sauvignon.
2016 Chateau Branaire Ducru in the commune of St Julien is one of the chosen few in the historic classification of 1855 and its shows its lineage with a 93 plus rating from critic Antonio Galloni who writes, “gorgeous in 2016. A rush if inky blue/purplish fruit, liquorice, violet, lavender, and dark spices give the wine its rich, textured feel. Gracious and nuanced in the classic Branaire style, the 2016 possesses lovely depth and sensuality, with no hard edges and terrific overall balance. It is arguably the most polished Saint-Julien”. 70 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon plus Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. $129 (Stock #7780).
2016 Reserve de la Comtesse from Pauillac is the second wine of the great second growth Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and so for about one third the cost of the great one we can experience what the fruit, deemed not quite perfect for the final blend, can do. Again, let’s turn to Antonio Galloni for his opinion.
“The 2016 Réserve de la Comtesse is a serious second wine. Dark, ample and voluptuous, the Comtesse will give readers a very good idea of the style and quality of the vintage, namely the interplay of fruit, aromatic freshness and tannin that makes this vintage so compelling. Inky dark and purplish fruit, chocolate, liquorice and lavender are some of the notes that infuse the huge finish. Silky, polished tannins add to the wine's considerable appeal. Don't miss it. Tasted three times”. 54 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 37 per cent Merlot plus Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. $95 (Stock #7778).
The Valley of Plenty, as the word Napa means in the language of the original inhabitants of the Americas, was just waiting for the arrival of Cabernet Sauvignon as it knew that it would provide a perfect home for our most popular grape. You just cannot go wrong with 2015 Ramey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that is a blend of 78 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 per cent Merlot, 7 per cent Malbec and 3 Per cent Petit Verdot. The Wine Advocate describes it this way, “93/100 medium to deep ruby, it has an incredible nose of liquorice, dried flowers and mint chocolate over black berries and black cherries, cedar shavings and pencil lead, plus spicy clove and star anise touches. Medium to full-bodied, it floods the mouth with plush flavour layers wrapped in chocolate-textured, pixelated tannins and great freshness to counter, finishing long and luscious”. $72.50 (Stock #6394).
We now head over to the Moon Mountain AVA in Sonoma where we find Monte Rosso, a classic mountain vineyard, resting firmly on the southwest side of the Mayacamas mountain range. Sitting above the fog line with undulating hillsides, the vineyard’s iron-rich soils are red, rocky and well drained. Vines struggle for nutrients here, and the rich concentrated fruit shows it. Planted in the 1880s it is now owned by the Gallo family, but it is still a source for superior fruit for well known wineries such as Louis Martini and Orin Swift.
Today, I select 2014 Sbragia Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon and share what The Wine Advocate has to say about this wine from one of California’s most respected winemakers, Ed Sbragia. “Judging from these barrel samples, the 2014 and 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Rosso should very well eclipse the outstanding 2013. Deep garnet-purple in colour, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Rosso has a beguiling nose of exotic spices and black berry preserves with hints of sandalwood and potpourri. The ripeness of the tannins goes a long way in elevating this rich, concentrated multilayered beauty, with a finish that just goes on and on. One to watch! Barrel sample 94 – 96/100”. $69 Stock (#6801)
Before Argentina became known as “Malbec Country” the Catena family had old-world-style Cabernet Sauvignon born in their clay soils of Agrelo and they cherish these old rows of vines. They produce wines that can be enjoyed in as early as three years but can last for twenty. 2016 Catena Alta Historic Rows Cabernet Sauvignon is a 94 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 6 per cent Cabernet Franc blend that rates 93/100 from The Wine Advocate and, “it is a phenomenal effort of freshness, elegance and finesse while being faithful to the variety. Really impressive”. $43.70 (Stock #6171).
I will probably write about more Cabernet Sauvignons next week, but for now I will finish with a wine from Washington State that is a bridge between Bordeaux and California in style, which I believe is the result of a slightly cooler and further north climate than California. 2016 Quilceda Creek CVR is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, at 87 per cent, but there is also Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit in this Bordeaux-like blend.
The International Wine Report rates it 93 points and comments, “an absolutely stunning release. It takes on instant appeal as the nose is very pretty and perfumed with red rose petals that combine with the marvellous dark and blue fruits. The texture is outstanding with a wonderfully rich and polished mouthfeel. While this is already remarkable in its youth, it should cellar well for ten to fifteen years”. $85 (Stock #9000).
This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at email@example.com. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm