Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot
The most famous trio of Bordeaux red wine varietals. Originally from the iconic wine region of Bordeaux, the three have arguably become the most famous red wines around the world. As a blend, either from the original region or elsewhere, these 3 exude robust, bold aromas and tasting notes, often with a pleasant earthy quality.
In Bordeaux, the varietals are generally blended together to create the perfect combination in a bold red wine. Two other varietals are also officially available for blending in Bordeaux: Petit Verdot and Malbec.
In most other countries, the first 3 are often bottled as a single varietal. Sometimes you’ll find a new world blend of two or three of these. For example a Cabernet Merlot, or a Meritage. And of course Argentina has made Malbec it’s own, having specialized in it as a single varietal for many years.
As single varietals, you’ll find the following characteristics …
Cabernet Sauvignon – the grape and the wine
(classic tasting notes of black currants, cassis, cherry, cedar and spice)
This is the principal red varietal in Bordeaux where it is usually blended with Merlot and sometimes Cabernet Franc. It’s frequently bottled as a single varietal in the New World and is thus called simply “Cabernet Sauvignon.” Often called the king of wine varietals, it is rich in tannins, full-bodied and provides the strength and complexity necessary to make a wine that’s good for aging in a cellar.
Tip: Remember, cabernet sauvignon is both the name of the grape variety when unfermented and also the varietal when it is made into wine.
It originates in Bordeaux & is now produced in many New World wine regions…
Cabernet Franc – the grape and the wine
(Classic notes: herbal, tobacco; green pepper only when grapes were not sufficiently ripe when harvested)
Closely related to the familiar Cabernet Sauvignon, this grape is being vinified in the New World to make some very interesting wines. Ontario is making the best Cab Franc at this time. Try a Lake Erie North Shore version, for example, from Viewpointe Estate Winery.
It is traditionally used in Bordeaux as a blending partner in wines, particularly to modulate or soften the wine’s character.
Merlot – the grape and the wine
(classic tasting notes of plums, blueberries & cherries)
Merlot is a very popular wine of its own, though traditionally, it has been used for blending with other grapes to shape the character of a wine, particularly in Bordeaux. This is a wine that’s friendly to everyone’s palate, even a newcomer to the red wine scene. It can offer up some rich berry, honey, or mint, and is not as tannic as a Cabernet Sauvignon.
by The Wine Baron