Choosing the Perfect Cabernet Sauvignon

From price to pairing, here’s what you need to know to make the ideal selection.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely available wines on the market. It’s produced in almost every wine region, and the price ranges from $5 to over $5,000 per bottle.

So, how do you choose the perfect bottle at the right price for the right occasion? Here are a few handy tips to keep in mind to select the ideal Cabernet Sauvignon.

How much should you pay? A high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon is expensive to make. It needs good land, expert vineyard management and strong winemaking skills. It also requires lengthy production time and high-quality oak barrels for aging.

Therefore, it can be challenging to find a high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon under $25. This is not to say that all $25 bottles are good or that all $75 bottles are better. Some wines can fetch high prices just because the grapes come from a renowned wine region, with little attention paid toward the care of the grapes and the crafting of the wine.

Don’t want to pay that much, but stillwant to enjoy a quality wine?

I would recommend purchasing a Cabernet Sauvignon blended with a Merlot, Cabernet Franc or Zinfandel, priced just under $20.

What about age? Most bottles of wine sellingfor under $40 are ready to drink when they’re released, usually within a few years after they are made. So, there is rarely a need to cellar-age the wine, once you bring it home.

Ironically, the bitter taste of a young Cabernet is the attribute that allows it to blossom into a high-quality wine. The thick skin of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes contains high levels of bitter tannins. Carefully aging the wine in an oakbarrel transforms these tannins into compounds that create the “secondary flavors” typically associated with a good Cabernet Sauvignon, such as chocolate, vanilla, leather and tobacco. Most Cabernets are oak-aged for at least 18 months and can be bottle-aged for several years before they are released.

What food to drink Cabernet Sauvignon with?

Cabernet Sauvignon is a high-alcohol, full-bodied, dark red wine. Even in its meekest expression, it is bold and assertive. It can overwhelm delicate dishes like chicken and fish, and tends to clash with spice and acid. That’s why Italian red sauce dishes and spicy Asian and Mexican dishes can spar with its flavors.

Cabernet finds its perfect mate in seared red meat that is lightly spiced. Just check out the wine list at any steakhouse to see that Cabernet Sauvignon is the most represented wine on the list.

The “secondary flavors” in Cabernet match well with the flavors that come off the outside of well-seared meat. That salty, peppery and caramelized crust of seared meat has many of the same deep flavors Cabernet offers on the nose and palate.

Good luck choosing the perfect bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon this month. Wishing you and your loved ones very Happy Holidays!

By Georgene Mortimer, Island Winery

The perfect bottle of hand-crafted artisan wine awaits at Island Winery on Cardinal Rd. Wine by the glass, cheese platters and $5 tastings are available Monday-Saturday from 12:30-5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12-4 p.m. 843-842-3141 or www.islandwinery.com.