Like Cabernet Sauvignon? Then Try...
Cabernet sauvignon is the most planted red varietal in the world and also the most popular. Full-bodied and muscle-bound, with chocolate hints and savory cigar notes, cabernet sauvignon is more than anything a fruit driven varietal whose signature black currant notes will thrill even the most sophisticated palate. But the world of wine is full of great bottles, with a variety of reds as flavorful and as fruit-driven as a fine cabernet. Below are six different red wine varietals that every cabernet lover should try.
Tempranillo is Spain’s calling card to the wine world. Spilling over with fruit, accented by a savory tobacco note, and amenable to oak aging, wines made with tempranillo are a natural alternative for fans of cabernet sauvignon.The wines from Rioja are an excellent introduction to the charms of this Spanish varietal, and can be thought of as the equivalent to a medium bodied Left Bank Bordeaux. Tempranillo-based wines from the Ribera del Duero and Toro can be more fruit driven and more structured, the Napa Valley to Rioja’s Left Bank.
Grenache is the quintessential warm weather varietal, demanding a sunny and warm environment to yield ripe fruit for fine wine. Offering baskets full of fruit flavors - cherries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries - as well as a cabinet full of baking spices and aromatic herbs, a grenache based wine is as hedonistic as they come. And just might persuade the cabernet drinker to turn his attention away from the Napa Valley and Bordeaux and to buy more Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Australian grenache!
As noble as cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir and arguably more exotic and complex, a syrah is one of the wine world’s greatest delights, bar none. Warm weather versions can be spice laden and fruit forward, revealing plums, black cherries, black pepper, baking spices, and roasted coffee notes. More classic expressions of syrah like those from the northern Rhone appellation known as Hermitage can display a black currant note very much like a top tier Left Bank Bordeaux.
Sangiovese is the premier Italian red wine varietal. Its most famous expressions are from Chianti Classico, medium bodied, herbal reds whose best examples can be comparable to a midweight Bordeaux. The sangiovese based wines from Montalcino are more formidable, more structured, and more concentrated; and are overflowing with darker fruit notes (black cherries and plums), spice, and savory cigar notes.
Zinfandel is a migrant varietal that found fame in California. Fruit-driven and seasoned with black pepper, exotic spices, and even hints of mint, zinfandel and its appeal are easy to understand. The best examples are round, full-bodied, and not especially tannic - which of course adds to its already broad appeal. The very best examples like those from Ridge, Turley, and Martinelli can be every bit as good as a Grand Cru Bordeaux or top tier Napa cabernet.
Nebbiolo is Italy’s second noble varietal - and some enthusiasts might argue that it is the country’s greatest. It’s also a sensitive varietal, thriving only in the Piedmonte and other regions in northwestern Italy. The best nebbiolo wines are, like a good cabernet sauvignon, broad-shouldered and formidably structured. What’s more, the finest nebbiolo wines are also alluringly aromatic, and can be among the most complex wines in the world. Red and black cherries, spicy cigar notes, balsamic hints, and rose petals in the very best examples - a nebbiolo based wine such as a Barolo or a Barbaresco is truly a connoisseur’s wine.
Cabernet Sauvignons Beyond the Napa Valley and Bordeaux
Check out these seven other regions that are producing great cabs that are as good as anything in France or Napa.Learn more
Barrel to Bottle: Cabernet Around the World
There's more to Cabernet than Napa and France. Jason Palma steps back into the Barrel to Bottle studios for a Cabernet world tour.Learn more