August 27 is International Cabernet Sauvignon Day according to the Wine Lovers Calendar. Cabernet Sauvignon is probably the most recognized varietal in the world, even though it may not be planted everywhere, though it seems to be attempted. When I first started learning about wine, especially red wines, the world seemed to revolve around Bordeaux and especially the Medoc. One very seldom sees the name Cabernet Sauvignon on a label from that area, unless perhaps it is a table wine that is geared especially for the American Market. Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of grapes for Bordeaux, but it is normally blended with some other varietals, but it is the Cab that is the star of the cast. Just naming the First Growths is enough to verify the importance of this famed varietal; Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. I have had the good fortune to have had four of the five wines, and enjoyed every drop of them, and I also realize that I may never enjoy them again, as they have become very dear, and to other wine lovers, they are only recognizable names. For decades, if not a century, Bordeaux was where one learned and tasted the unmistakable taste of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.
Across the pond in the New World, especially in the United States, winemakers also decided that the Cabernet Sauvignon grape needed to be planted. When it did, it exploded and made the sleepy town of Napa in California as famous as the Bordeaux is to France. The varietal on the label became as important as the winemaker and for some lesser wineries Cabernet Sauvignon ended up in larger type than the winery. Everyone wanted to drink Cabernet Sauvignon, but then a small group of winemakers decided that they wanted to try making a wine that evoked Bordeaux and began blending, using the classic Bordeaux blend, but then there was a problem with what to call the wine, and these early pioneers came up with proprietary names, where the name was star and one had to discover the blend of grapes. An explosion of wine labels that were unique started appearing: Rubicon, Cain Five, Opus One, Le Clos, Les Pavots, Alluvium, Dominus et al made their appearance. When these wines became popular and accepted, a new wine name appeared called Meritage, which is the American version of the French Claret, but of course the pioneers, never joined this new society, as they had done the trailblazing and did not need to join, as they felt that the newcomers were riding on their coat-tails.
Cabernet Sauvignon created a minor revolution even in Italy, where it is not a native grape. In Tuscany, Sassicaia created a Bordeaux blended wine and beyond drinking it, no one was quite sure what to do with it. This wine that was being made was not playing by the rules and using new varietals, and it created havoc and even changed the DOC structure and they came out with Toscana IGT for all of these “Super Tuscan” wines following the creation of Sassicaia, and even a new DOC just for Bolgheri and more new wine names like Ornellaia. So as one can see that an old varietal like Cabernet Sauvignon can stay dynamic, even as it seems to go in circles with it blending capabilities, and it will continue to find more and more fans, in all price points and from all points around the globe.