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All hail Cabernet Sauvignon

Written by  Harry Haddon | May 30, 2014

Why is it that Cabernet Sauvignon has such respect and appeal around the world? What made Cabernet King?

 Is there any other grape that has admirers from as far afield as California, Bordeaux, Stellenbosch, Chile, Italy, Lebanon, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Bulgaria? And this isn’t admiration for the sake of admiration. Cabernet manages to perform excellently in some way, in each of those countries and more. This is of course not to say that there aren’t some awful Cabernets around. There are. It’s just that Cabernet Sauvignon, the offspring of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc, manages to still taste of Cabernet Sauvignon wherever it goes.
    It’s a double edged sword. On the one hand it’s great for wine consumers. If you are travelling in a foreign land, and are not the adventurous type who buys a bottle without knowing what’s inside, Cabernet Sauvignon is not just your king, but your saviour. Based on the price you’ll be able to have a fair guess at what you are going to get. Upfront red fruit, some mint or herbs, blackcurrant, cigar box, pencil shavings and cassis in various amounts. You can rely on Cabernet.
    But on the other hand, this brand cachet that Cabernet Sauvignon has in the eyes of consumers and winemakers alike also poses a danger. The danger of sameness. One of the beautiful things about wine is that different grapes have arisen in all different parts of the world, and as a result different types of wine. South Africa has Pinotage, and we are making Chenin in our own way.  Italy has more grapes than you can shake a hundred sticks at. Just listen to them, Erbaluce, Raboso, Fiano, Falanghina, Refosco.  All grapes with their own unique vibe.
    The worry is that easily grown, identified, and most of all bought and drunk, Cabernet Sauvignon can be a bit of a colonialist. Sweeping into vineyards and taking over at the expense of these harder to pronounce, and more historic varieties. The fear is that all the wine in the world starts to shift towards a similar taste. And nobody wants this.
    But despite this, there is something inherently reliable about Cabernet. It’s and old friend. You know you can get a steak, some potatoes and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and have a fantastic tasting meal. Simple, straightforward, King Cab.
    South Africa has been regarded internationally as making either too green, too burnt rubbery, or too sweet Cabernets. The accusation definitely has a basis, but thankfully there are more and more local examples, that are showing what we can do with this grape.
    We are staying in the Northern Cape Wine of Origin area this month and are taking a look at another one of Orange River Cellar’s wines, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are a Cabernet aficionado, you may be wondering why I am talking about a wine such as this made in such huge quantities. Surely if I am extolling the virtues of great South African Cabernet Sauvignon, I should be tasting Kanonkop, Neil Ellis, Grangehurst or Boekenhoutskloof?
    And those are all truly excellent Cabernet
Sauvignons, but what happens to Cabernet when you sell it for under R40? I for one am normally afraid. Isn’t Cabernet Sauvignon supposed to be expensive?
    Well I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not going to win any Bordeaux look-a-like competitions, but then why would it want to? The 2012 Orange River Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon does a remarkable job. And shows more clearly than any cult wine why Cabernet is King.
    It’s has a nice streak of spice, with ripe rich fruitcake flavours, a touch of dark blackberry fruits, ripe tannins and a satisfying finish. It’s medium-bodied, and has a good freshness without being light, lean, or weedy. It’s a juicy, balanced Cabernet Sauvignon for less than the price of the lamb chops you will want to eat with it. It’s everyday Cab, Cab in civvies, a Cabernet of the people.
    Wherever Cabernet seems to venture, from the gravely soils of its historical home in the Médoc and Graves, to the hot Northern Cape, where the Orange river does much to cool the vines allowing for tasty wines such as this one to be made, the grape can make delicious wines.
    As winter rolls around it’s a perfect time to start stocking up on those rich, bold, dark fruited wines that go so well with the rich lamb and beef stews we all love to tuck into on cold wintery nights. Make sure that a case or two of the Orange Rivers Cab is in your selection this year.