The mofo guide to | Cabernet Sauvignon
It's one of the greats for a reason. Here's our guide to where, what and when cabernet sauvignon does best.
Why mofos like cabernet sauvignon
It’s the big gun from Bordeaux that conquered the world and became one of the planet’s most planted grapes - cabernet sauvignon (cab sav to its mates and mofos). It’s a classic OG for a reason - full, with brooding dark fruits, rich tannin profile and complex flavours that develop in oak and with bottle age. Pour a glass and let’s get sipping.
What to expect with a cabernet sauvignon
Let’s start with what it does so well by itself. Cab sav often has a few classic “tells” if you’ve got your nose in a glass or taking a sip. First is a blackcurrant-fruitedness, aka “cassis” if you’re trying to impress someone (but let's be honest - who has the time for that?). That’s often supported by other dark black fruits (like blackberry, black cherry), with a herbal character that can remind you of mint or bay leaf, with eucalypt being a classic note in some Coonawarra or Margaret River cabs.
Some cabs venture further into this spectrum of green-ness, and can have notes of green peppercorn or green bell pepper - if you want to nerd out it’s caused by the presence of chemicals called methoxypyrazines, a trait that it’s inherited from one of its parent grapes, sauvignon blanc. It’s often more noticeable in cooler climates and vintages as pyrazines are destroyed by sunlight, and whilst it was originally considered undesirable, some winemakers choose to encourage a bit of pyrazine development to add some complexity to final blends.
Anyway, enough science. Did we mention oak? Cab sav has some serious acidity and tannin that needs to be softened out in barrel and then bottle. Most aren’t considered ready to drink until at least a couple of years after vintage - it’s also why they’re considered to be amongst some of the most ageworthy wines. Oak ageing is going to help lend some of those classic dark chocolate and cedar notes, more developed examples expect to see an earthy, tobacco and cedar cigar box quality.
So there’s the cheat notes for cab sav on its lonesome, but you’ll often also find it blended with merlot (the classic “Bordeaux” blend), cabernet franc (it’s other parent grape), malbec and shiraz (especially on Australia’s fair shores). Why? Sometimes you just need a dancing partner to add some levity and brightness to those brooding dark fruits and tannin. We could go on and on and on about all the different cab sav blends out there to find, but the joy is in the discovery. See what treasures you can dig out.
What temperature should I serve a cabernet sauvignon at?
Cab savs are typically full-bodied, so best enjoyed around room temperature (15-19°C). Consider also popping them in a decanter, especially those bottles that have seen a few years - let them stretch out after all that time cooped up in their corked prison.
What foods pair with cabernet sauvignon?
The acidity and tannin of cab sav loves to be matched up with juicy, hearty, fattier red meats - we’re talking roast leg of lamb, or your ribeye or porterhouse steak cuts (or whatever is your fave). The tannin is going to bind to the protein of the meat to help you digest it, and the acidity will help cut through that fat (and refresh you between mouthfuls).
And hey - let’s not stand on ceremony here. Grab a bun, a burger, a slice of cheese and pour yourself a glass. Cab sav loves a cheeseburger.
If you’re not into (or taking a break from) meat, substitute it for the old classic grilled portobello mushroom, topped with some melted blue cheese. Yes please. The earthy mushroom and tangy cheese will hang loose and party with the wine.
Not feeling too hungry? No problem. See our guide for what’s good for snacking with cab sav.
When should I be drinking cabernet sauvignon?
Cab sav has that mystique that it’s a “serious” wine considering its larger-than-life, full-body, dark-brooding-thickness and the fact it’s used in “serious” blends.
But it’s also delicious. And smooth. And sick of being serious.
So yeah, you can open a bottle for that candlelit, sit-down meal. Or, you can also open one at a fun, sunny, BBQ-burger fest. And guess what? You can pour a glass of cab sav while you snack on some dark chocolate at home in front of the Friday night footy. No one is stopping you. Avoid the bowties and bulls8%t, keep it real and have some fun with it.
Feeling like you're now cab savvy? Dive in to the range here.