Calgary can be a cold, cold place during these dark winter months. It’s a time of year where we want to cozy up as much as possible, with us cooking hearty meals, wearing as many layers as we can, and finding any excuse to cuddle up with a blanket and a good book. Given this time of year, there are very few people reaching for a cold, light, and crisp glass of wine after venturing out in -20 and -30-degree weather, so it is only fitting for us to focus on something bolder.
In this tasting, we are focusing on the most popular of all reds, Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted varietal on the planet, producing some of the world’s most sought after wines, According to my co-worker Bryan, we probably have some growing on the moon already. But what is it that makes Cabernet Sauvignon so popular? Why don’t we delve through the grape’s history and find out?
Let’s take you back to seventeenth-century France. Bordeaux had just started to really hit its stride, getting inter-European acclaim and exporting more and more of their product than ever before. It was here that one foolish action led to the interbreeding of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, but who knew how earth-shattering this incident would be.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a hearty grape, being able to grow almost anywhere and its ability to show a variety of different personalities, It is diverse and can stand the test of time, so it’s only suiting that people became obsessed with it not just in Bordeaux, but the world over.
In order to showcase the diverse nature of Cabernet Sauvignon for this tasting, I decided to pour from some of the world’s most renowned Cabernet Sauvignon Regions, but also a couple for some ‘newer’ areas.
To start this tasting, we had to go to Bordeaux. It is the homeland of Cabernet Sauvignon, thriving in the gravel soil of the Left Bank, where it produces a wine with heavy with the earthier nuances of the grape, and producing some of the most age-worthy expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon. However, due to the viticultural history going back centuries within Bordeaux, it is rare to find single-varietal wines, and so Cabernet Sauvignon is traditionally blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and/or Malbec.
I decided to start off with the Chateau Lanessan 2014 Bordeaux Blend, which consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It’s full of luscious aromas of black fruit and sweet spice, hints of licorice and red fruit compote, and is silky and fleshy on the palate with a chewy finish. It was the perfect wine to start of the tasting, with its fruit-centric approachability, and soft character.
For the next wine of the evening, I decided to pour something from an area that wasn’t traditionally known for Cabernet Sauvignon. During the 1970’s in Tuscany, there were a few rebellious winemakers that were growing tired of the regulations they were subjected too. During this time, Chianti regulations allowed for up to 20% of none-Sangiovese wine in their products. This sent a wave in motion, where greedy winemakers would use the max amount of cheap none-Sangiovese juice to rank up the profits. In no time, Chianti’s quality was going down, and so some winemakers set out to make difference. Using Sangiovese initially as a base, they would blend in Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. It was only a matter of time before these wines grew international acclaim, and that’s when the title of Super-Tuscans was born, which is used by winos the world over to describe the style even today.
As you can imagine, Tuscany is a warm, warm place, especially compared to the Atlantic climate of Bordeaux. It’s an area where the grape ripens quicker, and produce a wine that is richer, fruitier and (possibly) higher in alcohol.
This particular Super Tuscan comes from the producer Poggio Al Sole. Known for its excellent Chianti Classico, winemaker Johannes Davaz was initially reluctant to plant Bordeaux varietals on his hill in Tuscany. But he can’t argue with the results: Seraselva, his Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%) blend, has won over critics in Italy and around the world, the latter being all the more impressive given the fact that it is a small production winery. Look for intense aromas and overall freshness. The taste is warm with notes of ripe fruits. Round and complex with ripe tannins, it shows hints of spice and minerals. There is a lovely taste of licorice on the close.
Moving back to a more cooler area and one of the newer regions for Cabernet Sauvignon: Wahington. Washington isn’t much known for Cabernet Sauvignon (at least in comparison to its neighbour in the South, Napa Valley), but it is a place to watch for.
A winery set up by one of America’s Master Sommeliers, Greg Harrington in 2005, Gramercy Cellars has been making waves as a small but impressive production. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is a rough blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc and a splash of Petit Verdot. This inky coloured wine offers classic Cabernet notes of black currants, lead pencil shavings, tobacco leaf, and damp earth. Beautifully layered on the palate, with full-bodied richness, solid mid-palate depth and a touch of graphite on the finish, this is a sensational Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon that will have 20-25 years of longevity.
Once again we are touching base with Bordeaux, this time going to one of the sub-regions of the Medoc, Saint Julien. Saint Julien is the smallest of the major Bordeaux subregions, but it also has the highest ratio or classified terroir, and to be truthful, it is one of my favourite subregions so I had to pour one!
Chateau Gloria was created by Henri Martin and is the only one of its kind as this 50-hectare vineyard was put together piece-by-piece over a number of years, through the purchase of plots exclusively from grand crus classiﬁed in 1855. The 2015 Gloria, Saint Julien, is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc, and is matured for 14 months in 40% new and 60% one-year-old barrels. Deep garnet-purple in colour, it has an earthy/meaty nose with a core of black plums and blackberries plus touches of eucalypt and anise. The medium-bodied palate is just a little lean and chewy with an earthy finish.
Next up in the tasting was the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Margret River region in Western Australia. Australia is well known for its bold bold reds, especially Shiraz, but their Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the most sought-after in the world. Moss Wood is one of the top producers coming from Western Australia, and their wines speak volume! Composed of Cabernet Sauvignon (92%), Cabernet Franc (4%) and Petit Verdot (4%), it creates a wine that is a deep brick red colour. On the nose, the wine displays the full range of Cabernet fruit aromas – blueberries, blackberries, and red currants, plus lifted perfumes of violets and pomegranate. As pretty as these characters are, underneath there are layers of leather, cedar, and tar reminiscent of years like 1975 and 1995, adding significant complexity. The palate is similarly a rich expression of Cabernet Sauvignon, with the full array of ripe mulberries and cassis, giving rich fruit depth and length. The structure is very supple and sits underneath this generous fruit. The acidity gives the flavours vibrancy and the tannin is concentrated but rounded, so the effect is one of smoothness and length. The finish is soft oak, leather, and tar.
For the last two wines for the tasting, we are going to the modern epicentre of Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley. Napa Valley became famous for their Cabernet Sauvignon after the Judgment of Paris in 1976, where on two sperate occasions, California wine was scored better than it’s the French counterpart. This was and still is seen as one of the most controversial events in modern wine history.
For the first Napa Valley Cabernet of this evening, I decided to pour the DuMol Montecillo Cabernet.
In 1964, the magical Montecillo Vineyard was planted at 1,700 feet on the steep slope of Moon Mountain, a stone’s throw across the Napa–Sonoma border, on the western side of Mount Veeder. Its highly eroded iron-rich red soils yield wines of unmistakable pedigree: distinct, powerful, complex flavours that can only be achieved in this rugged place—a pure, natural translation of gnarly old vines on the rockiest soils imaginable. The wine has deep, penetrating aromas of black plum, cassis, olive tapenade, and dusty stone merge with Provençal herbal complexity. A lingering lift of red fruit and sea spray add freshness. The full, rich entry is immediately plush and layered with a broad, mouth-coating texture. Incredible dark chocolate flavours meld with blackcurrant and smoky pine, framed by dense tannins. Subtle, savoury notes emerge as the forward youthful fruit fades and the wine finishes with mint, earth and smoke complexity. Drink from late 2018 through 2024. Pair with red meats, heavier dishes, aged cheese, and smoked meat.
For the second Napa Cabernet and the last wine of the lineup, we poured the Di Costanzo Cabernet Sauvignon. Di Costanzo is the independent project of Massimo Di Costanzo. In 2002, with a Viticulture and Enology diploma in hand, he apprenticed on four continents eager to learn his craft and the culture of wine on the global stage. As a native Californian, he laid down roots in Napa Valley working for several small and esteemed estate wineries where he began to articulate his own winemaking vision, both philosophically and in the wine. The Farella Vineyard in Coombsville is the birthplace of Di Costanzo.e Farella Vineyard in Coombsville is the birthplace of Di Costanzo. Available by mailing list only, we are very proud to offer the 2013 vintage of this sought after Cabernet. This is a sophisticated Cabernet that is built for the long haul. Beautiful aromas of black cherry, vanilla bean, subtle spices evolve on the palate. There is marvellous tension and structure here, showcasing red berries, floral notes, and a core of cool minerality. Tasted over the course of eight hours, it gradually took on weight and richness. It is a pure, clean, and persistent wine. Tastes great tonight (after decanting an hour) but will evolve beautifully in the cellar for 10+ years.
Thank you to everyone who attended this evening, and a BIG THANK YOU to Peasant Cheese for supplying the nibbles.