In the world of wine, few names command as much attention as Cabernet Sauvignon. With its bold flavors, robust structure, and ability to age gracefully, Cabernet Sauvignon has become synonymous with excellence from First Growth Bordeaux to Napa Valley Cult Wines. Behind every bottle lies a rich history that spans centuries and continents in pursuit of perfection. Join us as we embark on a journey through time to uncover the fascinating story of Cabernet Sauvignon, from its humble Bordeaux origins to its status as a global wine legend.

Origins and Early Development

Cabernet Sauvignon’s Bordelais origin story begins in the 17th century, shrouded in mystery. Thanks to UC Davis and DNA testing, we know the parentage to be a cross between two grapes: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. How the happy couple met or when remains unknown. But we do know that it propagated through the Médoc along with its great estates.

Cabernet Sauvignon is thicker skinned than its neighbors: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The thick grape skin protects against diseases. The small, dark, berry clusters showcase intense flavors of blackcurrant, plum, and cedar. They also deliver Cabernet Sauvignon’s deep color, lean body, and robust structure.

As Bordeaux wines gained international acclaim, Cabernet Sauvignon became the prominent component in the region’s eponymous blends.

6 clusters of dark grape berries labeled.

The Bordeaux Blend including Malbec and Carmenere.

Rise to International Prominence

Major Bordeaux houses frame their blends around Cabernet Sauvignon’s powerful profile. The 1855 Bordeaux Classification rewards Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, and Château Margaux.  At the same time, the French Revolution and phylloxera devastate Bordeaux. Winemakers seek refuge in vineyards across the globe.  This diaspora spreads Cabernet Sauvignon to new regions with its glamorous French flair, most notably California.  Cabernet Sauvignon makes California its second home. Thus, the rise of Napa Cab begins with the 1974 Judgement of Paris tasting. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Ridge Vineyards, Heitz Wine Cellar, Clos du Val, Mayacamas, and Freemark Abbey stake their claim as foundation Blue Chip wineries. And a shocked wine world clamors for more.

Rows of vines with green leaves, sign on front post reads "Cabernet Sauvignon"

The Golden Coast’s claim to fame lies in its redefining Cabernet Sauvignon as a solo star.

The Modern Era

Today, Cabernet Sauvignon stands tall as one of the most widely planted and recognized grape varieties worldwide. It captivates the hearts of wine enthusiasts and collectors alike, known for its aging potential and ability to develop complex flavors and aromas over time.

Napa winemakers, like Robert Mondavi and Mike Grgich, pave the way for Cult Wines like Hundred Acre and Screaming Eagle. California Cult wines rely heavily on the grape and winemakers across the world travel far and wide to test their skills against the dark-skinned grape bunches huddled along the steep mountain slopes. Australia’s Penfolds blends Shiraz into the mix, Spain’s Vega Sicilia brings Tempranillo, Italy’s Sassicaia frames it with Sangiovese as Super Tuscan, and Lebanon’s Chateau Musar brings Cinsault to court. Each expression elevates and diversifies Cabernet Sauvignon’s remarkable global portfolio.

Red wine pouring from bottle to glass.

Wine being poured at an event.

Cabernet Sauvignon’s remarkable trajectory, from enigmatic origins to commanding center stage, plays out for collectors and enthusiasts by the bottle. The parade of superstars awes and inspires; Margaux, Screaming Eagle, Penfolds, Musar, Almaviva, Sassicaia. It’s a generous legacy, an inspired gregariousness, that Cabernet Sauvignon carried across continents and cultures.

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