Best Cabernet Sauvignon

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

38 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
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412 Consumers Consulted
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best cabernet sauvignon

Last Updated December 2019

Ideal for winding down the day, pairing with a meal, or enjoying with friends, wine is one of the most popular and oldest drinks in the world, appealing to both connoisseurs and casual sippers, old and (not too) young alike. Among the most diverse and embraced types is cabernet sauvignon, a red wine grape variety that is a relatively new wine (emphasis on “relatively”) and easy to make.

Cabernet sauvignon (pronounced “kab-er-nay saw-vin-yawn”) wines are full-bodied reds with high tannin levels and moderate acidity. Cabernet was created in the 1600s in France as a blend of sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc, but today it’s made around the world, and as such, is the most popular wine variety in the world. Cabernet is often paired with meals, particularly smoked meats, beef, lamb, and hard cheeses.

As there are many varieties and blends of wine, and many different vineyards of each type, it’s important to know what you like or may like, and how to discern what wine is best for you and your lifestyle. Our buying guide and recommendations can help break down the important details so you can go forth on your wine journey with the proper knowledge.

While France is the predominant maker, they barely make up a quarter of the world’s cabernet sauvignon. The United States, Spain, Australia, and Chile are among the many other producers.

Key considerations

Properties

While cabernet sauvignons can come in many different forms, they all generally share some commonalities. These are the five general characteristics of wine and how cabernet sauvignon fits into the categories.

Bitter: Tannins produce a dry, bitter taste. You’ll find them in several different foods, including dark chocolate, certain nuts, whole spices, and tea leaves. They’re also found in wood and grapes, which is how they end up in wines. Tannins are primarily found in red wine, particularly cabernet. Tannins tend to dry out your mouth, but high tannin levels can add longevity, complexity, and balance to wine. 

Sweet: Cabs tend to be dry, but some, especially the less expensive ones, may have a hint of sweetness. This will likely be the first thing you notice when tasting wine.

Acid: Tartness in wine is caused by acidity. Most cabs have medium acidity, less than white wine but more than coffee.

Alcohol: An average glass of wine contains between 11% and 13% alcohol. Cabs are a little higher, with an average of 13.5% to 15% alcohol by volume (ABV). One way to notice higher alcohol content is by how much the wine warms the back of your throat.

Body: Cabernet sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine, a term that refers to a combination of the complexity, texture, and taste of the wine. Lighter wines are usually easier to drink and go down more quickly, while full-bodied wines tend to be enjoyed more deliberately. The body of a wine is made up of a combination of the aforementioned traits.

Tasting notes

Cabernet sauvignon has a predominant taste of black fruits, from currants to plums, berries to cherries. This quality makes the taste of the wine fuller and bolder. Cabs may also be oaky or woody, with some cabs predominantly fruity and others smokier. 

Regions

Due to the versatility of the grape, cabernet sauvignon can be made around the world. While all areas share common traits, each region adds subtle notes of flavor. For example, cabs from Northern California may have a slight mint or tobacco taste, while those from South America may feature green peppercorns. If you’re new to cabs and want to go to the source, be sure to try a bottle from the Bordeaux region of France.

Serving

It’s worth knowing the ideal way to serve cabernet sauvignon. It’s best enjoyed at or just below room temperature (between 60°F and 68°F) in an oversize wine glass. Older bottles should be decanted for an up to an hour, but failing that, let the wine sit and breathe in your glass before enjoying.

DID YOU KNOW?

A successful pour (without dripping) can be achieved by rotating the bottle away from you as you finish and deliberately lifting the bottle up. Make sure not to touch the bottle to the glass.

Features

Cork vs. screw cap

When searching for cabernets, you may find some bottles sealed with a cork and others with a screw cap. While some older wine connoisseurs may be adamant that cork is superior, there is little to suggest that one top makes wine taste better or worse than the other. Corks may in fact disintegrate and taint the wine, especially older corks. Screw caps tend to lower the cost of the wine and are easier to open and close. Ultimately, the option may come down to personal preference, though most Australian wines use screw caps.

Other flavors

Green bell pepper: Once regarded as a fault of under-ripened grapes in the winemaking process, today there are many who seek out such odd flavors found in cabernets. A green bell pepper taste is caused by aromatic organic compounds called pyrazines. You’re likely to find the green bell pepper flavor in cabernets made in cooler regions where the grape may not ripen as quickly or even fully.

Mint and eucalyptus: These are two more somewhat exotic flavors when it comes to cabernets. Mint can be found in wines from medium climates, those warm enough to avoid high pyrazine levels but that still trend cooler, such as Australia. Eucalyptus is another distinct and sought after flavor that tends to be found in Australian and Californian cabs made in regions where you find eucalyptus trees.

DID YOU KNOW?

Cabernet sauvignon grapes are especially versatile, which is why they’re commonly found in so many blends, making for myriad options to find the right cab for you.

Accessories

Decanter: Wine Enthusiast Decanter
After opening your bottle of cabernet, it’s useful to decant it to allow it to aerate properly and reach its maximum potential. We love this beautiful crystal decanter from Wine Enthusiast.

Wine opener: HiCoup Kitchenware Corkscrew
If your wine bottle has a cork, you need the proper tool to open it. We like this simple yet effective corkscrew from HiCoup Kitchenware. The handle comes in 27 different inlays of wood or resin.

Wine preserver: OXO Vacuum Wine Saver
If you have a quality bottle of wine that you don’t finish, you need a way to preserve the flavor until you can enjoy it again. This steel OXO vacuum preserver will keep your bottle of cabernet fresh until next time.

Wine rack: MyGift Folding Wine Rack
Buying wine in bulk is a good way to save money and be prepared for your next gathering, but you’ll need a place to store all those bottles safely. We love this folding wine rack that holds up to 54 bottles and requires no tools to assemble.

Cabernet sauvignon prices

Prices of wine in general and cabernet sauvignon, in particular, vary widely based on the year and region in which it was made, the winemaker, and the demand for the specific type.

Inexpensive: For under $40, you can find a quality bottle of cabernet from various regions around the world, usually made within the last three years.

Mid-range: For between $40 and $100, you can find high-quality bottles from around the globe, including those from well-regarded makers and vineyards. These wines may be highly rated and made within the last five years.

Expensive: For over $100 and up to $1,000 and more, you can find the finest cabernets. Prices rise dramatically depending on the vintage and the rarity of the wine.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some vineyards package cabs and wine in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag in a box or carton. They may not be the oldest wines, but they can still be good quality.

Tips

  • Don’t judge wine too quickly. When it comes to cabernets, first impressions may not be accurate. The full-bodied red can taste bitter initially, but it grows much more enjoyable after sitting for a bit.
  • Price doesn’t equal quality. There’s a tendency to be influenced by price, but don’t think there’s a correlation between price and how good the wine is. Some expensive bottles may not be for you, and some cheap ones are hidden gems.
  • Let the wine breathe. Decanting cabernet is a good idea, even if it’s for just a few minutes. If you don’t have a decanter, let the wine sit in the glass for a minute, or swirl it around in the glass. You can also pour it through an aerator.
  • Be honest. Tasting and enjoying wine can come with a lot of societal pressure, but life is too short to drink wine you don’t like. Don’t be afraid to try something and move on!

Other products we considered

There are virtually infinite options when it comes to buying cabernets, so naturally, there are many, many more that caught our eye. For a quality Italian cab featuring dusty tannins, black cherry notes, and lingering spice, check out the Collazzi Toscana IGT from 2016.

If you’re in the mood for a high-end, rich, and complex Napa Valley cab, consider this 2016 offering from Carte Blanche.

Last, in the medium price range comes a 2013 cab from Hidden Ridge in Sonoma County, California, featuring strong hints of ruby and notes of blackcurrants, vanilla, and oak.

A red wine stain doesn’t have to ruin clothes or furniture. Just be quick with solutions, be it soda water or laundry detergent, and be sure to blot and dab, not wipe!

FAQ

Q. Why don’t I taste all the notes?
A.
It’s perfectly normal for wine drinkers not to access or notice all the notes and aromas listed for a bottle of wine. Some people have more sensitive palates, while others are simply better at detecting scents and tastes. Remember, when it comes to wine for the average consumer, it’s about what you enjoy. You don’t need to explain the wine to love it.
 

Q. What are the best meals to pair with cabernet sauvignon?
A.
Because cabs are generally potent and bold, it’s best to avoid mild dishes that can be overwhelmed by the wine. Lamb, beef, and other meaty dishes are ideal. Pasta also goes well with cabs. It’s wise to stay away from spicy dishes. Still, cabs from different regions and even different vineyards have optimal pairings that differ from the norm, so it’s best to look into each specific wine.
 

Q. How long will cabernet sauvignon last once the bottle is opened?
A.
Most red wine will only last a few days once opened. A wine preserver may improve the longevity up to a week, but it’s best to enjoy the wine within a day or two to get the most out of it. Consider how much you and your guests will be able to drink before opening a bottle, especially a more expensive one.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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