Big Beltie Cabernet Sauvignon, IGP Pays d’Oc, France 2021 (£8.99, House of Townend) Although in recent years Burgundy has been the most influential French fine wine region – the one that winemakers all over the world have been keenest to imitate – for years that title was held by Bordeaux. Certainly, throughout the 20th century, you could trace the spread of the Bordelais way across the globe by following plantings of the most important of Bordeaux’s red grapes – cabernet sauvignon – to vineyards in California, Chile, China… pretty much everywhere wine is made. Such was its dominance, familiarity began to breed a little contempt for cabernet – a situation which has not been helped by the way it’s been used to make some of the world’s more powerfully syrupy red wines by winemakers who forget that great Bordeaux always leavens the power with a little Atlantic-influenced freshness. In the right hands, cabernet sauvignon is far too interesting and adaptable a grape to ignore, however, with a wine such as the superb-value Big Beltie bringing a little French Mediterranean solar charge to the classic cassis characters.
Wynns The Siding Coonawarra Cabernet, Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia 2021 (£15, Tesco) Australian red winemakers may be best known for shiraz, and in recent years they have been building a reputation for fine pinot noir, but they also consistently produce some of the finest cabernet sauvignons in the world. What I like about Australian cabernet is the way it varies from region to region: there is a real sense of place to the country’s best bottles. At a sumptuous recent tasting of 30 or so of the southern hemisphere’s best cabernets hosted by the magazine The World of Fine Wine, the standouts included such variously gorgeous wines as the sublimely silky, pretty Victorian Yarra Yering Carrodus Cabernet Sauvignon (Yarra Valley, Australia 2018); the densely powerful, endlessly complex South Australian Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon ((South Australia 2010); and the lushly pure cassis-fruited Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra, Australia 2020). Only the Riddoch will leave you with change from £100 if you can find a bottle, but fortunately Wynns The Siding offers a succulent sample of Coonawarra cassis at a more accessible price.
Metic Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley, Chile 2020 (from £10.80, The Sourcing Table; Hop Burns & Black; Chilled & Tannin) Cabernet sauvignon arrived in Chile from Bordeaux in the 19th century, and the country has gone on to become one of the principal producers of the grape in the world, with big sellers such as Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon doing a remarkably consistent job of providing the classic Chilean cabernet offer of very ripe, soft, fruit-pastille-like blackcurrant for a very reasonable £7.50 pop in most supermarkets. The deep roots of Chilean cabernet are on display in one of my favourite recent examples from the country: Metic cabernet sauvignon is made from a plot of 120-year-old cabernet vines in the warmth of the Colchagua Valley, and the age of the vines no doubt helps bring a natural sense of balance and vigour to the summer currant-and-berry compote flavours. Staying in the southern hemisphere, but some 5,000 miles to the west, South Africa’s David Nieuwoudt makes some highly original cabernet from his remote, high-altitude vines in Cederberg: his Cederberg Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (£20.63, finewineservices.co.uk) has a streak of wildness to its vivid blackberry fruit.
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