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Celebrate Cabernet Sauvignon Day

Beautiful sight: vineyard in Napa Valley, California

If I were to suggest that Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s most planted grape I could hear my old headmaster say: “Robinson, I think that you are handling the truth rather loosely.”

He would be correct and I should say that it is the world’s most extensively planted wine grape at 840,000 acres.

China and Japan win with their Kyoho, but these are used for table grapes and grape juice.

Behind Cabernet Sauvignon we have Merlot at 657,300 acres; Tempranillo (Spain) at 570,800; Airen 538,700 (mostly distilled for brandy); and Chardonnay at 518,900.

August 30 has been designated World Cabernet Sauvignon Day. Two of our world’s greatest areas for this grape are Napa Valley and Bordeaux, so why not try them side by side as I submit that this is the best way to learn subtle differences.

Louis Martini Napa Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon boasts a deep burgundy colour and complex aromas of dark fruit, smoky cedar and dried herbs. Rich and broad in the mouth, their Napa Cabernet has an expansive mid-palate, silky tannins and sought-after balance. Finely etched flavours of black cherry and blackberry are framed by liquorice and toast on the long finish. Critic James Suckling gives it a 93/100 and suggests that it is ready to open. I strongly concur. $39.70

When one considers a Bordeaux, we must realise that they are virtually all blends. For instance, the Chateau Lanessan 2012 Haut-Medoc is 60 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 35 per cent Merlot, 4 per cent Petit Verdot and 1 per cent Cabernet Franc. Blackcurrant, cedar and cigar-box notes on the nose develop into a rich, finely balanced palate and good length. Its vineyards are very well located opposite Château Gruaud Larose, that is a second growth of the great 1855 classification. $32.90 and ready to drink now.

Orin Swift 2014 “Palermo” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has rich aromas of seasoned oak that meld effortlessly with ripe boysenberry and candied cassis. The entry of the wine is soft and delicate, but quickly evolves into a serious mid-palate replete with opulent and concentrated flavours of dark fruits. Blackcurrant and kirsch provide background to lively raspberry and cherry notes that create a near endless finish. It does have a little Merlot and Malbec in the blend. $65.55.

I would suggest also trying the Chateau Angludet 2012 Margaux as the price is comparable with the Palermo at $69.10. Here is what Robert Parker has to say about it: “Another truly exceptional wine from the Sichel family, the 2012 Angludet has a deep ruby/purple colour, a sweet floral, blueberry and blackcurrant-scented nose with a touch of liquorice, light tannins, low acidity and a nice, fleshy mouthfeel. This is a sexy, mouth-filling and satisfying wine from both a hedonistic and intellectual vantage point. Drink this sleeper of the vintage over the next decade.” Parker often uses the word “sleeper” to describe a wine that exceeds its expectations.

Last weekend, we had a special anniversary in our home and, to celebrate with friends, we took from our cellar a 1985 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was magic with racks of lamb, as Cabernet Sauvignon often shows hints of mint. I honestly know of few words to describe the extra-specialness of a wonderfully aged Cabernet, but once you have had one you do not forget. The grip of the tannins has faded, and an ethereal cedar quality emerges, along with a whiff of cigar box. It is really quite magical. I will suggest older Californian wine as the only old Bordeaux in stock at this time, a 1989, is well into four figures price-wise.

Here is what Robert Parker wrote after visiting Beringer and tasting their Beringer 1992 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: “After 16 years of visiting the world’s best wine producers, I cannot think of too many cellars where I have walked out shaking my head at such an extraordinary range of quality as I have seen at Beringer on my two most recent visits! 96 points.”

When the winemaker at that time, Ed Sbragia, tasted this wine in 2007 he commented, “tobacco, deep, dark syrup, black fruit, ripe cherries, cocoa, dried herbs, spice, mushrooms and toffee”. One of my fondest memories is of an evening on our porch chatting with Ed. His talent is immense. He now has his own family winery and we carry his wines.

We have quite a selection of Beringer Private Reserves, the 1992 is $144.85. If you would ever like to have the ultimate vertical tasting experience with a few friends, then we can offer a wonderful selection and I will give you the Parker scores. 1990 94/100. 1995 93/100. 1996 91/100. 1999 93/100. 2012 96/100. 2013 97/100.

If you need the excitement of a three-litre double magnum ,then we have the 1996 and the 1997 and the latter scored 95/100 with Parker. We have them both priced at $1,003.65.

You may well think that these would cost four times that of a single bottle, but larger formats are more expensive to make and are hand filled. They age more gracefully and according to most tasters are just plain better.

This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at 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). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at wineonline.bm