Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most planted wine varietals in the world, and with good reason. It is naturally a full, grippy, full-bodied wine that has great aging potential when produced correctly. This mighty grape is also relatively easy to grow and is used for some of the world’s best brands and blends.
So what would it take to grow this varietal successfully? According to most wine-makers, the terroir and climate’s major role in growing Cabernet Sauvignon is to determine the style in which it will be produced. It performs well in most climates and soil types, so it is purely about what flavors and aromas the winemakers want to present in the wine.
Cool climates will create allow green flavors – like bell pepper and asparagus. A warmer climate Cabernet will portray flavors of mint, pepper and black currants.
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Margaret River in Australia
Margaret River is one of Australia’s favorite wine regions and has been known for producing premium wines. In the Western corner of Australia lies this completely isolated region that has such great diversity and uniqueness. Cabernet Sauvignon is the star of the region, generally with earthy, cassis characteristics.
This region has a Mediterranean-style climate that is rather dry with 4 distinct seasons. With the variety of different temperatures, rain, and sunshine, the vines can develop perfectly. The soil in the region is predominantly gravel and granite, forcing the vines to strain and deliver premium quality.
Due to the complexity of the terroir and region, the Cabernet Sauvignon is complex and well structured.
Aconcagua in Chile
On the border of Chile and Argentina lays the Aconcagua Valley. This region has a dry, hot, desert-like climate that many did not consider suitable for farming.
Although the area experiences extreme heat, it is counterbalanced by the ocean breeze and the shelter from the mountains against the sun. This, with the implementation of reservoirs and melting snow that runs down the mountain, the area also receives (and stores) some much-needed water for the vines.
In this region, the soil plays a completely different role in vine development than usual. The major soil types are sandy – which adds no depth to the wine. A certified sommelier fact: This specific soil does, however, prevents an outbreak of phylloxera – which would devastate the region’s production entirely. The region might not be well-known, but the grapes that do come from this region are said to be unbeatable.
Bordeaux in France
The left Bordeaux bank tends to be the region most think of when Cabernet Sauvignon comes to mind. Bordeaux is, after all, the creators of the classic Bordeaux blend – which is made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bordeaux has a unique cool climate – with high temperatures in the summer months but cool air at night. The combination of this hot and coolness allows a perfect balance of grape ripening and the development of acidity in the grape.
The soil in Bordeaux is either clay-and-limestone-like, or it is gravel-and-sand-like. Both types allow the soil to be well-drained, and both create a distinct flavor profile in the grapes. The vines in this area also face strain due to the soil type and drainage – which is paramount for the development of quality – which is what Bordeaux Cabs are known for.
Stellenbosch in South Africa
Stellenbosch is the most famous wine region in South Africa – and the region sees the plantation of Cabernet Sauvignon more than any other varietal. The region is known for some of the oldest vineyard soils globally, which consists of the ancient, decomposed seabed. Stellenbosch is very similar to Bordeaux concerning climate, style, and soil, with temperatures reaching slightly warmer than Bordeaux.
A certified sommelier fact: the soils in Stellenbosch are mostly granite, loam, clay, and sandstone. The clay in the soil ensures moisture for the vines constantly – which means there is little need for irrigation. Although the summers in this part can become relatively hot, Stellenbosch is situated close enough to the ocean for the ocean breeze to keep that under control.
Santa Cruz Mountains in the USA
This mountainous region is known for producing well-balanced red wine that is made to age. This region whole-heartedly supports sustainable farming, and everyone is involved in practices that take nothing from nature but put back.
It is much cooler on the west side of the mountains, and the cooler-climate varietals are situated there. On the eastern side, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown – and does well in the loam, limestone, and clay soils. The wine from this region contains a good amount of minerality due to the soil – which is a major characteristic of their wine.
A certified sommelier fact: The temperatures here are rather consistent and the proximity to the ocean allows just the right of acid development, but it just far enough inland to soak up some needed warmth.
Cabernet Sauvignon will flourish in the harshest conditions; even Canada’s devastating colds won’t break the humble cultivar.
It is no wonder it is such a widely popular cultivar – the ability to be sturdy in any climate and only adapt beautifully to the environment is what makes this grape gold. It is incredible to think that this single varietal can go from depicting intense, mineral, green flavors – and in other regions, it shows deep, dark flavors, like black currants, tobacco, and black pepper.
Although this article deals with the ideal regions to plant Cabernet, it leans more to the currently exceedingly successful regions in growing the varietal. Like we’ve said, this varietal can adapt to most extreme circumstances. So, we hope that this article has given you a newfound respect for the mighty Cabernet Sauvignon. Looking for more wine knowledge? You should check out our page on certified sommelier programs.