Cabernet sauvignon is the world’s most widely planted grape, grown in almost every wine producing region.
Not an ancient grape, it is believed to be a cross between cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc that was created somewhere in the 17th century. It became a key component blended with other grapes, firstly and most famously in Bordeaux where it is routinely partnered with various combinations of merlot and cabernet franc.
But now, it stands tall as a solo act. Cabernet sauvignon is a relatively easy grape to grow and tends to do best in warmer regions, which bring out its rich, dark, generous, brambly fruit flavours, with robust tannins. Other flavours to look for are green vegetal and herbal notes, mint, aniseed, eucalyptus and perhaps some liquorice and peppery notes, even hints of dark chocolate.
As a full bodied, robust red, which is best after some ageing in the barrel and bottle, cabernet sauvignon is a food wine rather than an aperitif or party guzzler.
It’s most at home with strong flavoured meat dishes: think big steaks, game, venison, roast lamb and casseroles as well as complex vegetable dishes, such as tagines and vegetable pasta bakes. It is also a perfect wine for hard and blue cheeses – more strong flavours again.
How we tested
We tasted these wines with a variety of different foods – all of which are suitable for the coming autumn season and this is certainly a warming wine for cooler evenings.
One further tip – these big flavours work best after the wine is exposed to the air for a while, so we opened at least an hour in advance; decanting also helps with the more expensive wines. So, in honour of International Cabernet Sauvignon Day on 2 September, here are our top picks.
The best cabernet sauvignons for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Hollick old vines cabernet sauvignon 2017: £17.50, Latitudewine.co.uk
- For garden barbecues – Penfolds Max's cabernet sauvignon 2018: £17, Sainsburys.co.uk
- Best for an expensive steak – Grant Burge 'Corryton Park' cabernet sauvignon 2018: £35.99, Majestic.co.uk
- Best ethical buy – Gabb Family Vineyards cabernet sauvignon 2018: £14.99, Majestic.co.uk
- Best bulk buy – Kleine Zalze Vineyard selection Stellenbosch 2018: £10.71, Gpbrands.co.uk
- Best luxury buy – Trefethen cabernet sauvignon 2017: £44.99, Waitrosecellar.com
- Best wine for autumnal dishes – Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian wells cabernet sauvignon 2017: £19.05, Vinvm.co.uk
- Best for picnics – Casa De Colores Valle central 2020: £7, Marksandspencer.com
- Best for vegans and vegetarians – Torres mas la plana cabernet sauvignon 2015: £44.75, Farehamwinecellar.co.uk
- Best for lamb – Château Ksara cabernet sauvignon 2016: £20.20, Vinvm.co.uk