In November, a lot of wine enthusiasts will put aside the summer bliss and dig into something heartier and more muscular. We can hope that’s because wine drinking is actually healthy and good for you, but the truth is that wine tastes great, it’s reassuring and it enriches all of our lives beyond measure. Especially the red stuff.
While lighter, whiter, colder wines go well at the height of the year, come the cold of November, you’re going to be sipping something more memorable and Cabernet Sauvignon should be a part of that memory. Colder weather is going to call for heavier wines, but also cheerier, more full-bodied and fun to drink. For that the level of tannins comes into play.
Cabernet Sauvignon was, for most of the twentieth century, the most popular wine grape in the world. Merlot has surpassed it in acres cultivated, but Cabernet still wears the crown of being one of the oldest, and best loved wines of France’s Bordeaux region where the grape was first cross bred in the 17th century, it’s still big and it’s still grown everywhere where grapes are grown. Though American producers will blend it a little more, up to 25% other grapes are allowed, that’s in part because it’s an expensive grape to grow.
Merlot lovers might beg to differ, but this is a very standard red wine, and a good choice for all kinds of November celebrating. While tannins and acidity are generally medium, the varieties of oak barrels in which most Cabernets are aged will give you a whole variety of flavors in addition to the strong cherry, currant and berry flavors that are nearly omnipresent. Tobacco, licorice, and vanilla are not unheard of and some of these are very sophisticated wines grown in a wide range of climates and soil types. Bell pepper and black pepper tastes are some of the most celebrated.
The 2005 Chateau Cos D’estournel Grand Cru Classe, St Estephe, for example, is a well-blended and magnificent Old World Bordeaux wine. Finally drinkable, (after seven long years) it’s not quite mature but still inky and purple in color, with a nose of sweet red and black fruits, camphor, cedar, and pain grille. It is extraordinarily well-defined, powerful, with high tannin and magnificent texture and richness. But you don’t have to go all out to still enjoy it. This one is for the true connoisseur.
Nearly all the Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux tends to be more herbal and floral. Yet 2005, 2008, and 2009 were all hailed as very good years across the region.
Still from France, but from a very new winery, the 2009 Chateau Domeyne Saint-Estephe Bordeaux is widely regarded as the best wine yet from the vineyard. At 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, the concentration is outstanding and it’s heavy on black currant, with hints of cedar and tobacco.
Similarly, the 2009 Chateau Faugeres Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux is fresh, a bit more acidic and a rich dense purple. Don’t be surprised by the notes of graphite, blueberry, black currants, and occasional charcoal. Full-bodied and intense, in some sense, this is what you thought wine would be like. This is an 85% Merlot blend, with just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, but it’s going to good with almost anything you serve.
If you want to stay with something more domestic, expect a slightly less tannic and less acidic grape. Though they tend to produce slightly more alcohol that tends to provide a warm, smooth finish to the American varieties of Cabernet, some of which are truly outstanding.
Try the 2006 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards for example. Slightly peppery on pouring it will develop quickly with upon catching some air. The nose can include tobacco, blackberry and a little leather. Tannins are light and this is a bottle worth keeping as it will get better for some years.
Likewise, and equally outstanding, the 2005 Corison – Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley has been widely hailed as a total success, refined and with terrific structure. Harvested a good 30 days later than in warmer years, the 2005 ended up with a full range of Cabernet specific flavors including red and blue fruits that dip into purple and black notes and a slightly higher natural acidity. Warm and engaging, there’s a little allspice and nutmeg and cardamom, but overall, this is an excellent glass for get-togethers, planning parties and old friends.
There’s nothing like toasting November, and with a good Cabernet Sauvignon, you really can’t go wrong.
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This article was written by James T, a writer and wine enthusiast in Mexico City.