This “king of red wines,” the offspring of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc vines, should be medium- to full-bodied, with a high tannin content that supports rich fruit—plum, cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and black currant—as well as vanilla, and sometimes tobacco, leather, vegetables, herbs, or oak. (Cabernets often require longer wood aging than do other reds.) Bear in mind that those are quick hits of aroma, not how the wine tastes overall. As you sip, cabernet may have a full yet soft mouth feel. Classic cabernets are often called the “iron fist in the velvet glove.”
The finish should be medium to long, with no significant bitterness.
What we found
Most of the recommended cabernets are medium-bodied with black-fruit notes and hints of wood. They’re dry, with a medium-length finish. These wines can be drunk now and may improve in the next two to three years.
Cabernet sauvignon goes well with red meats, including game, stews or casseroles, hearty pastas, and strong-flavored cheese—in other words, nothing delicate. Protein can help soften astringent tannins; fat protects your palate against a too-assertive wine. Note to holiday chefs: Stuffing and gravy are chock-full of ingredients such as currants, mushrooms, and herbs including rosemary and sage, all of which can help link the food to the wine.
Louis M. Martini Napa and Raymond Reserve are excellent, with black and red fruit and hints of herbs, spice, and vanilla. Louis M. Martini has a bit of black currant and leather that Raymond doesn’t have; Raymond has cherry and plum that Louis M. Martini doesn’t have. Louis M. Martini would taste especially good with honey-baked ham; Raymond, with duck and plum sauce, braised short ribs, or roasted potatoes.
Crios and 14 Hands taste very good and are CR Best Buys. Both have hints of cherry and black currant. Crios would pair well with barbecued ribs; 14 Hands, with roast chicken.