03/13/07 – March Madness (Cabernet Sauvignon)

By Jesse on March 12, 2007


This is the final week of the March Madness “regular season” before we move on to the two-week playoff tournament.  It’s your last chance to vie for those crucial regular season points, which, I should remind you, carry over and count towards your final total.  Won’t you feel quite the fool if you find yourself competing for the tasting championship and managing to lose by only a point — a point that could’ve been scored by attending the Cabernet Sauvignon meeting and guessing where the mystery bottle was from!!  It sickens me to even think about how difficult your life would be after such a grievous error.

Cabernet Sauvignon is often considered the “king of grapes.”  The genetic offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, it is best known for providing the legendary structure and body to the world-class reds of France’s Bordeaux region.  Subsequently, it has found great success in the New World as well, and Cabernet is grown in almost all of the world’s major wine regions.  It has surpassed Zinfandel as the most widely-planted grape in California; a red that loves warmth, it thrives in the Napa Valley and warmer AVAs in Sonoma such as the Alexander Valley.  Cabernet also plays a role in “Meritage,” which is the name given by certain California producers to a Bordeaux-style wine (usually featuring Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and/or Carmenere) grown in California.  If you’re gonna be a badass and bring a Meritage, please be even more of a badass and make sure it’s majority Cabernet… at least 60%, and 75% would be best.

Cabernet does quite well in Washington State, where the Bible says they’re “infused with the primal, lush berryness of Northwest blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries and cherries,” and “at once supple and seamless.”  It’s also well-made in Australia; Cabernet “was the first red to put Australia on the map back in the ’60s, before those crikey bastards had really figured out what they were doing with Shiraz” (quoted from a previous e-mail I wrote you).  In Australia, in fact, Cabernet is sometimes blended with Shiraz… they’re a strange bunch of alkies down there.  Finally, it’s big in Chile and Argentina.  It’s also big in South Africa, but we didn’t seem to like those South African wines, did we?  That seems to be the Young Winos sole across-the-board prejudice.

If you’re gonna be bold and go Bordeaux — first of all, hurrah, I salute you.  Secondly… be careful to pick a wine from an appellation where Cabernet makes up the majority of the blend.  Many Bordeaux wines are majority Merlot, and it largely depends on which side of the Gironde River the vineyards are located (you’ll hear the terms “rive gauche” and “rive droite,” which the French claim mean “left bank” and “right bank”… no idea why they don’t just use the English).  The left bank wines are generally majority Cabernet, and include:

–St. Estephe
–St. Julien

Here is a lovely website that talks more about Bordeaux.  Don’t be intimidated by the specifications!  It’s actually quite simple.  Ask your local wine dealer for help, or look for one of the regions above.  We should definitely have a few Bordeaux in order appreciate Cabernet in a classical sense.  They can be expensive, so feel free to split the cost of a bottle with a friend.  Best recent vintages in Bordeaux include 2000 and 2003.

We’ll be meeting at Regan‘s lofty abode in the former Pabst Brewery, which is near downtown, and easily accessible via Los Angeles’s brilliant system of interconnected free-access highways. Find yourself a nice Cabernet, bring tasting notes or a relevant article if you can be bothered, and we’ll see you all on Tuesday night at 9:00.