Week 35 – Cabernet Sauvignon

We tasted: Chateau Blaignan Medoc 2012 £14.50-9.67 on save 1/3 now

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This week Andy really held me back. I was ready to crack open a fine bottle of Bordeaux for our Cabernet experience. One of those really pricey bottles that I’ve saved for a “special” occasion. Since I never seem to find a grand enough moment to fit opening one, I thought 52 grapes might fit the bill. But no, Andy was my kill joy, he said we needed to find something similar to what other readers might be drinking. Do I sound bitter?

So I didn’t open this bottle with a lot of relish. However I’m really happy to say that opening it was a nice reminder that everyday Bordeaux can be a joy. A lot of wine trade people dismiss ordinary Bordeaux as being lean and green tasting. That is because the Cabernet grapes in the moderate climate of Bordeaux can struggle to ripen and if they don’t the flavours can become bitter and leafy, plus the tannin in the grapes can also be unripe and rough. Potentially I’m just a bit immune to those flavours because my lovely dad who is the ripe old age of 91 has been drinking at least a half a bottle of Berry Bros Extra Ordinary Claret since I was born; which was a while ago. Consequently I’ve had a lot of experience with this grape!

Onto this wine which I happen to know really well because I import it for the company I work at. I’m so pleased that it really shows that definitive Bordeaux character in a good way. The aromas are heady and perfumed, with typical cassis and sweet menthol leaf, combining with leather and tobacco. Then on the taste it showed through a sense of classic minerality (pencil lead if you have ever tasted it) and fresh crunchy brambles mixing with a hint of padron grilled green peppers that defines to me the greenness that is good in Bordeaux. The tannins are a feature as you would expect in a boldly structured grape like Cabernet, they feel grippy and leave a texture on your teeth, probably a colour if I’d drank the whole bottle. Cabernet is also the grape that really encapsulates what “tertiary” characters are in wine. This term refers to the aromas and flavours that happen with age and when a wine moves away from primary characters such as fresh fruit and flowers. Cabernet has a lot of structure and acidity that soften out nicely with age and then these “other” characters evolve which also bring complexity for example: leather, tobacco, tar or pot pourri. This wine only has six years of age but ones that are much older will be become dominated by these tertiary characters more than the fruit.

On food matches do try a lump of cheese with this wine. The heavy tannin in  Cabernet reacts with protein and then they have this nice synergy where the wine softens the taste of the cheese and the protein then helps the tannins to soften so the wine is more approachable.

A final personal note is that I love Bordeaux because every time I have a sip I somehow feel closer to my Dad. I’m not sure he feels the same way or he’d be thinking about me a lot! But it is nice to have that personal connection with a wine.”

Andy says: “I was looking forward to this week as I’ve always thought I was a CabSav fan. I think I still am, but am coming to the annoying realisation that maybe not all wine is the same.

I think I’ve probably only ever had big, bold, shouty Cabs from e.g. California. Well, I know that’s not true as I’ve had plenty of Bordeauxs in the past, I guess I’ve never really clicked that they’re the ‘same’ thing. Basically, I was expecting an explosive mouthful of flavour.
My first sniff of this wine seemed salty, sort of salted caramel, and also some high tones (those aromas that, for me, get right up your nose and right into your brain), but other than that, I didn’t get too much. After a while that changed and I did get some fruit, but very hidden, definitely not ‘fruit forward’. Taste wise it was the same, it seemed a bit watery and washed out to me, but again I’m probably hankering for a big gutsy red. Emma did explain to me that it was to do with the age (we had a 2012), but I wasn’t really listening so not sure what she said.”

Buying Guide

Cabernet Sauvignon is the world famous red grape that makes wines with great structure and ageability. We are going to seek one out from the classic region of Bordeaux. Look for a “left bank” Bordeaux wine which can be identified by names like Medoc, Margaux, St Julien or Pauillac, these have the most Cabernet in the blend.

4 thoughts to “Week 35 – Cabernet Sauvignon”

  1. This week I struggled to decide whether to try a classic left bank Bordeaux or a 100% Cabernet wine to provide a ‘purer’ example of the grape. Obviously the only thing to do was to try both. So I tried a Margaux (Chateau Deyrem Valentin Margaux 2015, £29.99) and compared it to a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Pays D’Oc (Lidl, £5.00). It made for a very interesting comparison; and also an excuse to eat a lot of cheese.

    The Margaux had a vibrant deep ruby colour and a wonderful bouquet. However, I fear it needed several more years in the bottle. The nose was red berries (cherries, blackcurrants, over-ripe strawberry), rose and a dash of green leafiness. There were oaky flavours too – cedar wood, ginger biscuit, tobacco. And also something I can’t really describe – a sort of waxy scent.

    However, I don’t think the palate lived up to the promise of the nose, or the price tag. Probably because it was too young. It was dry, pretty full bodied and had lashings of grippy tannin. The flavours were relatively bitter (which I like) which balanced out the dryness – cherry, blackberry, pencil leads and green leaf hints. It had a decent length, but not as long as I’d hoped. It was also very strong (14.5%) – a bit too strong for my liking in wine – so there was plenty alcohol burn and it needed food.

    Overall if was a very nice wine with a beautiful nose. I’m sure that with more age the palate would have grown in complexity and balance. But the problem was that I had such high expectations of Margaux that, while it I thought it was good, it wasn’t good enough! I’m sure I’ve tasted similar quality wines for half the price.

    So, to the bargain, nameless Cabernet Sauvignon from Lidl. It was deep purple and the nose was strong and fruity – plums, red berries, a bit farmyardy. It also had a vegetal twist. I’ve wondered what people mean when they say they smell menthol in wine as it’s something that never crosses my mind, but if I’ve ever detected it, it was in this wine.

    The taste was full bodied, dry and pretty tannic, drying out the gums before a rush of saliva. It was not complex but not unpleasant either. Simple, fruity red berry flavours with a musty twist. There was a touch of greenness, but relative to the Margaux it seemed sweet, almost squash-like. It was a perfectly drinkable ‘plonk’ and good for the price I thought.

    So, all in all, it was interesting contrast of price versus quality versus regional reputation. The real winner was the grape – I’ll always love Cabernet!

  2. Last night was not a special occasion , but at our ages why hang around for a special occasion, when you happen to have a bottle Chateau Blaignan.
    Peter who loves Berry Brother extra ordinary claret, and thinks its the only wine him , surprised me after tasting this wine by saying
    he thought it was a great fruity wine and please could we get another bottle!
    I found this wine very fruity with aromas of blackberry & blackcurrant , a lovely after taste too . I would buy it again

  3. Wine – Château du Glana 2014 St-Julien (Majestic £25)
    Bottle says – Nothing

    Deep red with a purple tinge. The dominant aromas are menthol and blackcurrant. I also got notes of sage, thyme, pencil shavings and a hint of pepper. I have read about menthol notes in wine before, but I have never noticed it as intense as it is in this wine. I don’t know if this is a characteristic of St Julien, as my limited experience of left bank wines is mainly with Paulliac.

    Initially, the tannins dominate, but fade to reveal black fruits, (although they are left tasting ‘dusty’ due to the tannins), leather and sour cherries. The menthol and the herbs are also there, as is the wood, although more substantial than pencil shavings; its a cliche, but definitely more cigar box.

    The drinking window for this wine is 2018-2026, which would explain the tannin levels, which are quite high, although not ruinous. A few years ageing would definitely improve things. As it stands, this is a wine where the taste doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the aroma. I would be interested to see how this wine ages, as I think it has the potential to be a really great wine.

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