Cabernet uncorked

Everyone loves this red, but where does it come from?

It might not happen right away for wine drinkers, but sooner or later they all become cabernet sauvignon fans. It is one of the most popular red wine grapes in the world and seems to be grown just about everywhere: from Canada’s West Coast to Australia, across Europe and even China.

Because of cabernet sauvignon’s mass appeal, it was widely believed that the wine has always been part of the great grape mix, but in truth it is the result of a 17th-century cross of two less popular grape varieties.

The parents of this grape are obvious if you look closely at the name.

Discovered in 1996 through DNA testing, its lineage was traced back to cabernet franc (one of the main red varieties used in the Loire Valley, France, this grape is used mainly for blending in Bordeaux and is a favourite stand-alone varietal wine in Ontario) and sauvignon blanc, a white Loire Valley grape that has been popularized by New Zealand winemakers in recent years.

Cabernet, as it is most often referred to — even though its parent has the same first name — is the grape that put California on the map with the Judgment of Paris. Not to be confused with an event in Greek mythology that led to the Trojan War, the more recent Judgment of Paris has become a legend in its own right in the wine world.

In 1976, wines from California (both cabernet and chardonnay) defeated French wines in a blind tasting — a competition that has been replicated a number of times, with California coming out on top each time.

The ultimate steak wine, cabernet is the vino that most often shows up around the barbecue. If you’re looking for a good cabernet this summer might I suggest the following wines from Chile, all of which I have tasted in the past few months and was impressed with: Montes Alpha 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon; Santa Rita 2010 Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon. Also look for Pascual Toso 2012 Barrancas Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina); J. Lohr 2011 Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (California); and Wakefield 2012 Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia).