Log In

Reset Password

The world’s king of grapes

Early days in Napa Valley (Photograph supplied)

After a Saturday filled with the type of ceremony that only the Brits can do, and a spectacular concert the next day, I really believe that I have no choice but to write about the king of grapes.

Although a relative newcomer on the block, with first references to its birth in Bordeaux only a few centuries ago, there is no questioning the fact that cabernet sauvignon is the most widely planted wine grape on planet Earth.

The berries are small and black with tough, thick skins and it is this last feature that protects them from disease and allows them a long ripening period (hang time) to gain complexity. It has happily taken root in many vineyards around the world but does seem to be at its happiest when it is near climate-influencing bodies of water.

A clue that I often detect first when blind-tasting a red that makes me think it may be cabernet sauvignon, is a delicious burst of cherries, often followed by chocolate, cassis, currants, and blackberries. At another time I will list a few of our often expensive, but cream of the crop, spectacular cabernets. Today we will visit the north and south hemispheres and select ones that most of us would be happy to purchase – and don’t worry, as they will all be very enjoyable.

Our first one is 2019 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina and even though it is priced at $23.80 it still scores an impressive 91/100 from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and 93 points from James Suckling. It is juicy and vibrant with a deep and intense cherry red colour. The nose is fruity, with aromas of blueberry, currant, and citrus. Olives and eucalyptus also appear. It is elegant with quite a long finish – 91 per cent is cabernet sauvignon, 7 per cent cabernet franc and 2 per cent petit verdot. (Stock #7117).

We are travelling alphabetically to Australia and 2019 Mollydooker Maitre D Cabernet Sauvignon and its blackberry, cherry, and coffee on the nose with all the beauty of a classic cabernet. The palate is full and generous, with intensified flavours becoming evident as it lingers in the glass. A soft and supple mouthfeel gives way to polished tannins and delivers a silky-smooth treat that is rich and profound. This is 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon that rates 92/100 with the Wine Spectator and this opinion: “Compelling and aromatic, with details of palo santo, sandalwood and sarsaparilla and a core of chocolate-covered cherries, espresso, and wild blackberry notes. The tannins are thick and concentrated, but integrated seamlessly, adding to the impact of this lovely wine. Drink now through 2036.” $39.90 (Stock #6095).

Moving on from “A” to “B” we have the 2016 Chateau Cambon La Pelouse, Haut-Médoc from Bordeaux. Can you get much from this classic French appellation for $38? The Wine Enthusiast thinks so with a 92 rating and says, “This rich wine is built by generous tannins and dense black-plum fruits. A hint of dark chocolate offers depth and an edge of extraction that does not detract from the delicious ripe fruitiness. Drink from 2023.” The blend is typical bordeaux with 54 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 42 per cent merlot, 4 per cent petit verdot.

I have followed this property for decades and while researching today, was surprised and happy to see that folks that I am very familiar with purchased it in 2019. I can only imagine that it will go from strength to strength under the ownership of Treasury Wine Estates, owners of such classics as Penfolds in Australia and Beringer in Napa Valley. (Stock #9603).

So let us say that it is Tuesday night, and you want to pay under $20 for a bottle of wine. You insist on it being organic and vegan-friendly. Not only that, but it must be 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon with rich aromas of ripe, black fruit, leather, vanilla, cassis, and hints of spices. On top of all that you ask for a velvety finish. Well, it just so happens that if we go to Chile, I can offer you a bottle of 2019 Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, produced from organic grapes, that ticks all the boxes. $19.95 (Stock #6191).

If anyone asks you if you know how many of the 50 states in the USA make wine, I can promise you that the answer is easy to remember: it is “all 50”. For now, I will just narrow it down to one valley that is about as long as our island home, and four times as wide. The original indigenous inhabitants called it Napa, which is their word for “plenty”. They knew what they were talking about! What a glorious place for cabernet sauvignon to ripen to perfection.

From a winery founded in 1933 I suggest you try 2016 Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Although many of the classics from this AVA (American Viticultural Area) are 100 per cent the king of grapes, here we have an 84 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 9 per cent petite sirah, 5 per cent petit verdot, 1 per cent merlot and 1 per cent malbec. The Wine Enthusiast rates it 94/100 and comments: “This is a powerhouse wine, surprisingly soft and supple on the palate, with firm, integrated tannins, and hearty oak. Cedar, pencil shavings and sweet tobacco provide savoury complexity on the mid-palate, accenting a core of concentrated red currant and plum. The finish is a mix of black pepper and dark chocolate.”

James Suckling, with 93 points writes, “A silky and harmonious cabernet with currants, light chocolate, and spice. Medium to full body, lightly round tannins, and a flavourful finish. Real Napa cabernet at a good price.” $48.30 (Stock #8683).

Even though it breaks my price rule for today, I just had to mention Napa Valley, but Louis Martini has branched out over the years and for $32 we can offer 2019 Louis M. Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon that gets this write-up from Decanter magazine: “A fine wine here, exhibiting bright red berry fruit, vanilla, and sweet oak spice aromas. Medium-bodied with ample freshness, with flavours of compact red fruit and baking spices layered by supple tannins. A long finish punctuated by chocolate and wild herbs. A great value for the vintage.” (Stock #6513).

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available at www.wineonline.bm

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published May 12, 2023 at 7:45 am (Updated May 12, 2023 at 7:45 am)

The world’s king of grapes

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon