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A return to cabernet sauvignon

Since the Thursday before Labour Day is set aside to celebrate the most extensively planted wine grape, I will continue from last Friday’s column and describe a few more of our cabernet sauvignons.

But first, a little information.

It varies considerably but for discussion’s sake, it takes about 2.5lbs of fruit to make one bottle of wine. As cabernet sauvignon grapes are smaller than merlot it takes more of the former for the same amount of juice. This means that the skin to pulp ratio is higher in the cabernet sauvignon tank and this alone contributes to more tannins, more intensity and a wine that takes longer to develop than merlot. A rather loose rule is that merlot is softer and ready to drink at an earlier age.

I often mention that fine reds usually reach a point in their development that suits me to a tee once they are ten years old but this varies especially with modern wine making which can control tannins and make them most enjoyable at a younger age.

Great wines deserve to be given time. During one of my last trips to the New York Wine Experience we all had to chuckle when we tasted 1989 Chateau Lafite Rothschild with Baron Eric Rothschild. He swirled it in his glass, took a taste and said that the cases at his winery should have a sign on them that read “Only open in case of emergency”. In his opinion it was too young.

Our 2009 Chateau La Lagune Grand Cru Classé is a typical bordeaux blend of 60 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 30 per cent merlot and 10 per cent petit verdot. This wine shows elegance and balance, two features which typify the great bordeaux wines, but added freshness, harmony, and a touch of femininity grant La Lagune true personality. An exceptional terroir, perfectly mature grapes, careful vinification, respectful ageing – therein lies the secret of the La Lagune style.

The Wine Advocate rates it 95/100 and says: “It is not unusual that the 2009 La Lagune is a spectacular effort given the fact that this estate has been making terrific wines over the last decade or more. It boasts a dense purple colour as well as a beautiful perfume of blueberries, mulberries, cassis, white chocolate and subtle toasty oak. Notes of Chinese black tea, cedarwood and forest floor also make an appearance in the singular aromatic and flavour profiles. This sumptuous, full-bodied La Lagune possesses low acidity, abundant but ripe, sweet tannin and a long, 45-second finish. Drink it over the following three decades.” $130.85 (Stock #9607).

Another classified bordeaux, from the commune of Paulillac, is our 2012 Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse that Decanter says is ready to enjoy. Wine Enthusiast gives it a score of 93/100 and comments: “Big and densely ripe, this is an impressive wine. It has balanced weight, fine acidity and a sense of richness. Offering all the right elements, this is going to be a great wine.” The blend is 61 per cent cabernet sauvignon and the rest merlot. At $67.75 this offers the buyer the opportunity to enjoy a wine that was included in the classification of 1855 and is also ready to drink. (Stock #8304).

If we fly over to Napa Valley we will find that older vintages are much harder to find, and this is mainly due to two facts. The first one is that Bordeaux has 67,000 acres and Napa 18,000. Secondly the wines of Napa Valley usually have a far higher percentage of cabernet sauvignon in their make-up, and where I can think of many 100 per cent cabernet sauvignons in Napa, not one comes to mind from Bordeaux.

A classic, and ready to enjoy example, is the 2012 Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Although California law only requires a wine to be a minimum of 75 per cent of the grape named on the label, this Beringer beauty is 98 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 1 per cent cabernet franc and 1 per cent petit verdot.

Here is the Wine Advocate’s take: “Revealing the great blending skills of Beringer’s winemaking team, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve is a winner. Having purchased private reserves for many years, I can attest that they age incredibly well. The 1991, one of the great successes of that vintage, is still ageing beautifully at nearly 25 years of age. The sensational 2012 (10,000 cases) boasts an opaque purple colour along with abundant aromas of charcoal, burning embers, creme de cassis, chocolate, blackberries and liquorice. The long, complex, compelling, full-bodied texture along with terrific purity and a savoury, rich mouthfeel result in a classic, quintessential Napa cabernet sauvignon to drink now and over the next 20 to 25 years.” $182.45 (Stock #6306).

Of course, you can always buy something for the cellar such as the fabulous 2017 Penfolds Bin 407 South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon. This 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon certainly shows the excitement of youth and is 100 per cent at the yummy stage but keep it for a few years and you will be rewarded. Here is what Wine Enthusiast thought of it last year: “This is a strong vintage of Bin 407, a multi-regional South Australian cab. It opens with aromas of chocolate, cola, plush plum and black cherry, backed by accents of mint and other crushed herbs. On the palate, fine, chalky tannins slink around silky fruit and savoury herbs. Poised and harmonious, this has the potential to age until 2030, but is drinking well right now.” $95 (Stock #7232).

I have been in some awesome wine cellars but few of us can afford or want such extravagant facilities. Our home “wine cellar” holds approximately 200 bottles at 59F (my preference) and yet we have cabernet sauvignons from the 1970s and 1980s. We really should drink them but I have difficulty saying goodbye to an old friend – even if the memory never goes away!

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Beringer is the oldest continuously operated winery in Napa Valley, California. Founded in 1875, it stayed open throughout prohibition (Photograph supplied)

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Published September 03, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated September 03, 2021 at 7:42 am)

A return to cabernet sauvignon

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