A big, bold, California Cabernet Sauvignon may be the benchmark style chased by steak lovers and nouveau collectors, but sometimes, a value-riced, juicy and accessible Cab is all it takes to quench the longing for this classic grape.
It is one of the most prominent and recognizable of the red wine grapes. With its heritage firmly entrenched in Bordeaux from France, Cabernet Sauvignon quickly became a world traveler, finding long-term accommodations in California's Napa Valley, Washington State, Chile's Maipo Valley and the Coonawarra region of Australia.
Vineyard owners took to the grape immediately for its easy-living style. It grows without much handling - thanks to it's thick skins and vines that are resistant to rot and disease. As a grape varietal, it's fairly new, in historic terms. What we relish today from this single grape is the result of a 17th Century marriage between Cabernet Franc (a red grape) and Sauvignon Blanc (a white grape).
At its most expensive, Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of careful handling, a lengthy maturation is combinations of French and/or American oak barrels. Its beefy tannins and typically high alcohol levels create a wine that can live and grow in its bottles for a decade or more.
Today, we're not exploring aging wines, but ready-to-drink Cabernet Sauvignon that, while it may not be in the big leagues, is certainly expressive of the grape variety and accessible to most palates.
Anderson Conn Valley Prologue: This versatile food partner is a steal of around $22 and drinks like a much pricier bottle. It possesses all the great fruit of Cabernet Sauvignon and delivers oaky nuances like vanilla, toast and cherry. Good news: While it ready to drink, this label will cellar for several more years to come - and continue to improve over the next 5-6 years.
Pennywise: This bargain comes from a portfolio of wines heavily influenced by the legendary Sebastiani family and is one of a line of single varietals that should see shelf prices of under $12. It is juicy and enjoyable - and a Cab that even white wine lovers can embrace. Big fruit, comfortable finish and as easily useful on the dinner table as it is sipping on the porch.
Leese-Fitch: The Other Guys wine company reps Pennywise and a sister wine from Leese-Fitch. The familiar and elegant label is an indicator of the juice inside. Count on lip-smacking red fruit and tannins that are as delicately balanced as a high wire artist. Leese-Fitch blends grapes from several California AVAs - and adds splashes of Tempranillo, Syrah, Alicante Bouchet and Petite Sirah to give this highly drinkable wine mass appeal and unexpected complexity for the price. Find it for around $12.
Don't forget to aerate! Even value-driven Cabernet Sauvignon can benefit from a little airing out. Open the bottle early, decant or use of those aeration gadgets to bring out the full character of the wine.
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