Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Guide

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely grown red wine grape varieties in the world, thriving as it does in a diverse range of global climates and producing some of the greatest and most varied wines. Prior to the 1990s when Merlot rapidly rose to prominence, Cabernet Sauvignon was perhaps the most readily available premium red wine grape having originated from south-western France during the 17th Century. The grapes have thick skins and the vines are very resistant to rot and frost, hence the varietal’s capacity to travel well. Here is some information to hopefully enlighten you prior to purchasing Cabernet Sauvignon wines…


From the ‘left bank’ of Bordeaux in western France amid the gravel soils of the Gironde Estuary, Cabernet Sauvignon is responsible for some of the world’s finest red wines. Due to the unpredictable climate and temperamental weather of this iconic wine region, the vast majority of the numerous claret wines produced here are blends of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot amongst others; early ripening varietals that provide Cabernet Sauvignon blends with balance, poise and consistency in uneven years.

Where is Cabernet Sauvignon grown?

The grape thrives in warmer climates and it subsequently travels well in areas such as the Margaret River in Australia, the Napa Valley of California and in South Africa’s Western Cape, where blending with other varieties is not necessarily required. While its stands alone in those balmier regions, Cabernet Sauvignon is the key ingredient in the blend of Chateau Musar, Lebanon’s most famous red.

Wine Styles of Cabernet Sauvignon

Quality Cabernet Sauvignon grapes produce wines with strident blackcurrant fruit, ably supported by an excellent structure of acid and tannin, which is often enhanced by oak-derived spicy flavours. Although the grape has many attractive qualities, as aforementioned, it is often blended due to its occasional lacking of fruit which can result in a slightly leaner middle-palate if not fully ripe. That being said, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have the capacity to produce wines with dominant blackcurrant flavours with great poise, balance and structure of acid and tannin. More than that, what makes Cabernet Sauvignon so remarkable in terms of its taste is its ability to produce wines that are so recognisably Cabernet. Wines made from this resilient grape varietal also tend to be the perfect vehicle for a vineyard’s local physical attributes, or Terroir to the purists, to flourish in the juice.

When to drink Cabernet Sauvignon

Although a lot of modern wines are made for early consumption, top quality Cabernet Sauvignon wines from stellar vintages have the capacity to improve over decades. Wines made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape are often considered the best for ageing, with premier wines developing complex, integrated secondary-fruit flavours.

Our top three Cabernet Sauvignon wines under £15

JJ Hahn Homestead Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley 2009

Maria and Johann Christian Hahn of Silesian-German descent, arrived in the Barossa Valley in 1845 and have become synonymous with the production of superb wines ever since. The family business continues to this day with Jacqui and James Hahn still residing in the original homestead constructed in 1846. This beautifully structured Cabernet Sauvignon is made from the winery’s home block vineyard, which was planted in 1979 on red clay soils over a limestone base, hand-harvested and subsequently aged in a mixture of French and American oak barrels prior to blending. This wine shows lovely fine tannins, with dark berries and subtle notes of juniper on the palate.

Leasingham Bin 56 Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec 2007

This Cabernet Sauvignon from the Clare Valley in Australia is part blended with Malbec having matured for 18 months in French and American oak barrels to produce a suitably rich and spicy wine that is typical of this thriving wine region. The wine has a heartily rich blackberry and blackcurrant flavour that marries exceptionally well with the spicy-oak, chocolaty element.

Château Lamothe-Cissac 2005, Cru Bourgeois Haut-Médoc

Owned by the Fabre family, this château with a lofty reputation is situated between Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe. Typically for the region, the blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot and is in oak barriques and boasts a lovely promising nose with a ripe cherry character enlivened by liquorice and vanilla. This Cabernet Sauvignon has a lovely long finish and is perfect with juicy red meat.
CellarVie Wines’ best value Cabernet Sauvignon

Drostdy-Hof Winemakers Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Western Cape

The grapes from this subsequently impressively pure expression of Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced from prime vineyards in the Stellenbosch, Paarl and Robertson regions of the Western Cape, with the majority of the fruit coming from the Stellenbosch and Paarl regions. There are an abundance of blackcurrants and plums on the nose, subtly supported by aromatic notes of cedar oak spice, which all contributes to a full-bodied, intense fruit driven wine which will gain in complexity over the next four years.
Did you know?

Cabernet Sauvignon is believed to be rich in resveratrol, a compound common in all red wines, and one that has positive health benefits such as reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Resveratrol also increases the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol and slows down the production of ‘bad’ cholesterol, so moderate consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon can have positive effects on the heart.

‘Sauvignon’ is thought to have derived from the French word sauvage meaning ‘wild’ and refers to the grape being a wild Vitis vinifera vine native to France.

It is the hybrid offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc and it is one of the most widely planted red grapes in the world.

What to eat with Cabernet Sauvignon 

The best matches are with rare, dark meats such as beef and lamb or with dishes containing cheese, butter and cream. Cabernet Sauvignon tends to boast sturdy tannins and luscious, concentrated, dark fruit character, and rare meats or dairy products act to soften the tannins and highlight the wines’ fruit character. It is subsequently not a good match for light and delicate dishes.

Wines made from this delectable grape can also work well with rich, game dishes or if you are feeling a little less adventurous on a wintery week night, try the humble bangers and mash with a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon. In essence this wine will love a protein rich, fatty meat that has the capacity to tame the heavy tannins usually present in Cabernet Sauvignon.

Regardless of your food match with Cabernet Sauvignon it is always important to remember that the wines produced courtesy of this very popular varietal are heavy; heavy in texture and flavour and therefore it needs a suitably powerful culinary match. It’s a bold and assertive wine that will inevitably overwhelm delicate dishes, so ensure its food match has the capacity to match Cabernet Sauvignon’s fulsome flavours.

Perfect Cabernet Sauvignon food match 

Nederburg The Manor Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and a classic rack of lamb

When speaking to CellarVie Wines earlier in the year, Nederburg winemaker Razvan Macici recommended one of their premier Cabernet Sauvignon wines as a perfect match with roast lamb so we thought it wise to follow the Romanian born maverick’s lead. Think juicy, tender, on the right-side of rare and a deep reddish pink fatty lamb chop with this luscious Cabernet Sauvignon from the Western Cape in South Africa. Matured in oak for nearly a year, this full-bodied yet superb value Cabernet Sauvignon wine shows an abundance of ripe berry and dark chocolate aromas, with spicy flavours and a long lingering finish to perfectly accompany the abundant lamb meat.
Main image by Fred von Lohmann

Written by: Ben Moss

Ben Moss 


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